So, you know how to be empathetic, but why don’t you always practice it?
Last week we shared a video on illustrating empathy. It is about connection and presence. Even though you know how to do that, you might not always handle situations with connection and presence.
3 Things that Get in the Way of Responding with Empathy
ONE: You are triggered
Things don’t happen in a vacuum. So, you and the person who could really use some empathy and compassion could be in the same situation that is bringing up intense feelings for you both. You might need some empathy and compassion too.
This is where mindfulness skills and emotional awareness come in.
If this is the case, get what you need. Be understanding to the person needing compassion and then make sure you get your own support. Don’t drown yourself trying to only be there for them and not take care of you.
TWO: You are overwhelmed
Yup, you are busy, stressed, have little capacity at the moment to really be mindful. It might be a stressful or busy time of year, you might be dealing with other situations, whatever the case may be.
Try to recognize this and circle back to the person needing empathy. Just own it: “Hey, I know I’m not really doing a great job here because I’m going a million miles an hour, I’m sorry”. Saying that versus saying “well, at least you don’t have to do these million things you don’t want to do” or “you’ll be fine” or “don’t worry about it” is going to WIN every time. At the very least, you are connecting briefly through authenticity and that connection can go a long way.
THREE: You might have some feelings you are not yet aware of about the situation.
This one is a little harder to catch. If you find yourself being judgmental or angry vs empathetic, it might be because the situation or the way the person is dealing with it is actually triggering YOU and you don’t realize it.
Yes, your co-worker is being victim-y and it is reminding you of your mother who can take on that role. Or, your boss is seeming unreasonably upset and you are reminded of your brother who always blames you.
You might not even know this is happening. But if you are finding yourself having a difficult time showing empathy, there might be a lead there for you. Knowing what is triggering your less than generous reaction will make the situation a whole lot easier to deal with. It loses its power over you once you are aware. And, you get to return to being that loving person you know yourself to be.
Therapists are great at seeing and decoding these things, so if you find yourself in a position more often than you’d like of being less empathetic or compassionate with people in your life, reach out to us. We are here to help!.