It’s no secret.
People that we read about or see in the news today show evidence that empathy is an endangered emotion.
From the highest to the lowest levels of human interaction, it appears that many have set aside a desire to feel another person’s hurts, worries, frustrations, or experiences. Instead, if it’s not their hurts, their worries, their frustrations, or their experiences, then it doesn’t matter to them. Their actions say, “If you don’t see it or feel it the way I do, then you’re irrelevant in the world.”
That attitude is eroding our personal connections with each other; even our interest in connecting with each other. Which is why bullying is increasing – not just among children and teenagers, but among adults too.
Lesson from a dog
Feeling and showing empathy is art fully demonstrated in a TV commercial where a family is playing on the floor with their baby.
When the family dog comes to join in, the baby starts crying and the dog immediately walks away.
The father notices the dog pitifully looking at them from another room as the baby plays with a stuffed toy lion, and he feels the dog’s sadness. The dad buys a lion’s mane for the dog and when the baby sees the dog, she reaches out for him in acceptance.
Thirty seconds is all it takes to capture the essence of empathy in that commercial…stepping outside of one’s self, feeling what someone else is feeling, and doing something to relieve that feeling.
Build Your EQ
If a human can do that for an animal, why are some of us finding it so hard to do it for another human? A low emotional quotient (EQ) might be to blame. How can you build that up?
- Become a reflective listener – listen without interrupting, then reflect what you heard back to the speaker making sure you heard correctly.
- Silence your internal talk – don’t focus on what your response is going to be once the speaker stops; otherwise you’re listening to yourself, not the speaker.
- Read the nonverbal – look at the speaker’s body language and listen to the tone of voice in order to connect to the speaker’s feelings; not just the words.
- Step in their shoes – mentally imagine yourself in the speaker’s situation so you can feel what the speaker is feeling.
- Don’t judge – keep your initial criticisms and advice to yourself until you understand the whole story. Then share at a different time.
If each of us practices these steps, we’ll bridge the divides that so easily separate us. And it will show!