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Love Culture #13 Empathy

Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the link between self and others, because it is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves.

Empathy goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of imagination.
Every passing day we have opportunities to be part of other peoples lives through empathy. It is just a matter of becoming intentional about seeing things from other people’s perspectives. It is about choosing to walk miles in other peoples shoes just so you can understand where they are coming from.
The quickest way to understanding why people do the things they do is by seeking to understand where they are coming from. Life is full of challenges and everyone is on a journey of personal improvement. We can ease the load for others by simply seeking to understand and being part of the solution.
Behind every face lies a unique story waiting to be told. People desire to be heard and understood a midst the raging demands of life. A heart that listens is like a healing balm to a wounded soul. Through my many years of counseling experience, I have never come across someone who came to seek counsel because they had no idea what they wanted to do but rather all my clients were looking for a listening ear even without being able to articulate their need.
Empathizing will involve listening well, and also paying attention to non-verbal communication, picking up subtle cues almost subconsciously while showing sensitivity, and understanding if others’ perspectives.
Both compassion and sympathy are about feeling for someone: seeing their distress and realizing that they are suffering. Compassion has taken on an element of action that is lacking in sympathy, but the root of the words is the same. Empathy, by contrast, is about experiencing those feelings for yourself, as if you were that person, through the power of imagination.
It may not always be easy, or even possible, to empathize with others but, through good people skills and some imagination, we can work towards more empathetic feelings. Look beyond the physical and dare to step in the shoes of that street child, beggar, taxi driver, nanny, child, police officer or even politician just for a moment and see things from their perspective. When we seek to understand, we grow to appreciate the little efforts and sacrifices that others make to be who they are.
The underlying principle is to seek to understand before you are understood. Go the whole nine yards without any expectations because that is what love culture is all about.

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