Understanding Empathy

 

Understanding, cultivating and applying empathy and resilience in your own personal life can have a huge and positive impact.

Empathy can be the ability to put yourself in another person’s position, understand & feel what they are experiencing. It can also be caring for people and having the desire to help them.

Although empathy is an innate skill used to recognise emotions, the ability to empathise is a sophisticated imaginative process. Empathy is key to society, it is a trait that is highly valued & sort after. Research on empathy suggests that people with similar personalities, or ones who spend a lot of time together, are able to better empathise with each other. If the empathizers have already been through a similar situation, it can also be much easier to understand the other person’s perspective.

Empathy is a skill that is developed throughout life. It can be observed even from a young age, but it tends to improve with increased contact with others and by gaining experience from everyday life. You could build upon your current level of empathy through reading fiction, practising active listening and being more vulnerable. The thoughts and feelings of the characters in literary fiction can be very lifelike, making their problems much more relatable and interpretable. Active listening allows the listener to summarise what the speaker has said, helping them to truly understand the conversation and the meaning behind the emotion being conveyed. Vulnerability can provide you with feelings that you may not have experienced before by just putting yourself in a new or different situation. Once you’ve felt something yourself, it could become easier to understand what others may be feeling.

Resilience is a different quality to that of empathy, as it is something to help yourself rather than others. It helps you to overcome failure, stress & adversity by maintaining a positive outlook & adapting to the situation.

The common response from people to negative, unwanted or unplanned situations can be a lower self-belief, distrust in others and uncertainty about the future. Resilience is not a natural trait but actually a process, which can be learned and developed through behaviour, thought and action. Resilient people are not necessarily just happy and positive all the time - the road to resilience is likely to involve many emotions, distress and difficulty. Instead, people try to create coping techniques to analyse and deal with bad situations, which can positively influence their outlook, optimism and happiness. The areas of life that may require a strong resilience can be relationships, health or career, amongst others.

Successful resiliency is overcoming a stressful situation whilst using it to become a stronger and more resourceful individual. To build resilience, you can try to maintain close relationships with family and friends, and to accept that sometimes things are not within your control and cannot be changed. Try to create realistic goals and a strong sense of self belief and confidence. Hopefulness and a positive outlook can help you when looking for “the silver lining” from a bad situation.

Honing these two skills could significantly improve your day to day life. By maintaining a strong resilience you can better understand and fully believe in yourself and your future, whilst being more in control of your thoughts and feelings. Empathizing with others can be much easier with a strong resilience too, as you can then apply your new and positive outlook to their situation and help them to move forward themselves with your own adaptive attitude. Bearing that in mind, these skills can therefore hugely influence your personal relationships and how and where you choose to take yourself within your life.

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