Relationships - Part 2
October 5, 2016
Empathy is a skill often underrated as a primary means of fortifying our relationships with our partners. We know it’s a good thing, but what is it and what’s the difference between empathy and sympathy? When we sympathize, we pity, we are less engaged and more detached. Feeling pitied is not comforting because it reinforces feelings of weakness and vulnerability. On the other hand, when we empathize, we try to take the perspective of the other person. Imagining ourselves in another’s place can be scary and we might find we are less able to judge or solve their problems. Having empathy means listening and trying to understand without giving solutions. Empathy is trying to understand how we might feel in our partner’s place and knowing their unique skill set and barriers which help or hinder them. Being empathetic with our partners can open us to more intimate, authentic relationships. Years of being in a relationship may give us a false belief of knowing everything they are thinking, but if we only listen through the filter of pre-conceived understanding, we don’t allow ourselves to see the world through their eyes. Once we are able to see that world, empathy comes easier and validation follows. Practice by listening without trying to jump in with a solution or fix. Redirect yourself to stay focused and hear what your partner is saying and how they are feeling. Truly listening and respecting our partner’s feelings can be the most loving response we can offer.