Can We Walk in Another Person’s Shoes?
Trying to see where another person is coming from is often thought to be the key to empathy. If we imagine ourselves in their shoes, we’ll be able to predict their feelings and their behavior, bridging the gap between self and other.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case. There is no hierarchy in grief or pain. We each feel it in the way that we feel it. And our different life experiences and personalities might not allow us to see and feel the way others do, even if the situation looks similar to things we've gone through.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to connect and understand each other. The way I see it, is not really about shared experiences and trying to fit another persons shoe on, it's deeper, it's about wanting to make an effort to grasp their point of view; to listen and connect. Being humble when trying to understand what other people are thinking and feeling.
Yet, no one has ever been taught this skill, you either learn it on the go or never truly at all.
And given that developing empathy has always been recognized as an important part of human development, why wouldn't this be part of schools and workplaces or in many cases homes?
So, is it really something you can practice and learn? HELL, YES!!!
Like any skill, empathy can be learned and it gets better over time with practice.
Start from here:
Pay Attention – Be fully present without distractions when in the company of others.
Active Listening – Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and just take in what the other person is saying.
Don’t Interrupt – Even with the best intentions, saying things like, ‘It’ll get better,’ or ‘It’s not that bad’ diminish the other person’s problems and may cause them to shut down. Avoid doing that.
Make It About them, Not You – Resist the urge to speak. Use filler words like “umm”, “and”, and “tell me more” to hear them out fully before speaking.
Be Open and Vulnerable – Empathy is a two-way street. We make these connections by sharing our own vulnerabilities and struggles. Don’t be afraid to open up.
Instead of assuming and guessing what someone’s feeling? Ask them
You Can Be Right and Still Be Wrong and Vice Versa. Even if you think you know how to go through something because it worked for you, each individual and path is different. This doesn't mean you can't comfort someone who has lost someone even though you haven't.
Developing the ability to empathize and to approach life with the above mentioned skills will result in consistently better outcomes for you and those around you.
Not only have these past couple of years been full of heartbreak, struggles and hurt, some people might have been carrying pain around in them since the beginning of their time. Let's use this time as an opportunity to stretch the boundaries of our own perspectives, to tune into new ways of seeing others and things around us, to detach ourselves from the assumptions that populate our minds – and open ourselves up to what it may really be like to connect and find empathy in being in someone else’s shoes.