(Read Time: 5 minutes)
The world needs the healing through empathy. This phrase may sound like a pretty big claim, but in this age – when we can be too busy and – nothing could be more true. Empathy is free, yet it can comfort, it can encourage, and it can heal someone.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is kindness magnified. It is the ability to feel and understand what another person’s going through, and giving a response coming from a place of kindness, love, and understanding. At its simplest, empathy is feeling someone’s plight as if we’re experiencing it ourselves. Unlike sympathy, healing through empathy is more than just “feeling for” someone – it’s actually “feeling with” another.
Empathy can be differentiated into two – cognitive empathy, and affective empathy (AKA emotional empathy). Cognitive empathy – also known as imaginative empathy – is the capacity to understand another’s perspective. Affective healing through empathy on the other hand, is the ability to feel what another is feeling. Because empathy is complex, not everyone can easily express it. However, by constantly choosing to practice empathy in every situation, one can master this skill.
The Power of Healing Through Empathy
Empathy heals. We can see its power to heal on a daily basis.
We see the amazing benefits of speaking words of encouragement no matter how simple they are. Encouraging words can spark hope.
Simple questions like “Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?” can convey the message that you want to help ease their burden.
Silence is also a powerful tool for healing through empathy. Sometimes just sitting in silence is most comforting thing you can do for someone. If you think someone is open to it, kind gestures like holding a hand, wrapping someone in a hug – even without words – can speak volumes.
Our ability to offer empathy increases our understanding and tolerance – we become more forgiving, more open to different ideas, and more accepting of differences without feeling bitter or resentful. Empathy also enables us to see things in a bigger picture. We begin to see that there is hurt behind the anger, insecurity behind meanness, and sadness behind isolation.
The world is full of overwhelming events that can cause hurtful words and interactions.
Healing Through Empathy is like a healing balm that encourages more peace to one’s heart and soul. Words that respect and understand can help us and other people in our family, in our social circle, and in our workplace feel safer and less on-the-edge.
How to Express Empathy
Understand their Perspective
The first step to practicing empathy is to understand someone’s perspective. This means you see – on a cognitive level – their point of view about their situation. By doing this, their emotions and their reaction to things begin to make sense.
Talk Less, Judge Less
Peoople may share stories that will leave us surprised and appalled. It’s easy to react and say our opinion and judgment out loud. However, healing through empathy has an inverse relationship with judgy feelings. To show empathy, we must choose to talk less, and listen more. This enables us to understand another on a deeper level. When we eliminate judgment in our minds, we begin to see where another person is coming from. When we opt to eliminate judgment, we also allow ourselves to speak the right words when it’s time to say them.
Understand their Feelings
Understanding what they’re feeling is more than just knowing their emotions. It’s like taking a step back, putting your prejudices to the side, and viewing the situation the way they see it. If someone expresses anger and disappointment, don’t immediately say what they’re feeling is bad. Withhold the judgment, and choose to understand.
Let them Feel Seen and Heard
Most of us know the kind of relief that comes when we realize someone listens and understands. There’s healing in knowing that one’s feelings are acknowledged and validated. Helping them feel seen and heard don’t often require a lot of words. Giving them a hand squeeze, acknowledging their feelings (e.g. “That must hurt a lot”), or simply sitting by them in silence can mean so much.
Simply listening to someone does not always build a bridge of empathy. Opening up is an essential part of creating that personal connection with another. Sharing your own vulnerabilities sometimes comes naturally with empathy. When you open up with someone, you create an emotional connection that helps you and another understand each story with a deeper level of understanding. Opening up allows you to see that you can be understood – and that can lead to healing.
Practicing empathy can give you a renewed perspective when it comes to dealing with people. Empathy replaces judgment with feelings of compassion, kindness, and understanding. When practiced well, empathy heals both the giver and the receiver.