Stories of Kindness from Around the World

How To Increase Empathy Even With Difficult People And Why It Helps You.


--by AsianWoman, posted Jul 8, 2009

How to increase empathy even with difficult people and why it helps you.

Background.
How can having empathy with people be of any benefit to ourselves?
Why should we have empathy with difficult people, wouldn't it be better just to get angry with them?
How can we increase empathy?
Many of us get upset at the things other people do and say.
Have you ever thought that this can be harmful to us?
When we get upset we hurt ourselves, emotionally and physically.
Our happiness goes out of the window for a start.
Anger can make us act foolishly.
And, anger or frustration can contribute to physical problems such as headaches, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Being upset with someone seldom helps us or makes a relationship better.
Instead, what happens is that we carry resentment towards the other person and our negativity towards them grows.
The bigger the resentment, the more we dislike the other person.
The more upset we become, the worse we feel.
The worse we feel, the worse our behaviour becomes.
People do and say "bad" things when they feel "bad".
Road rage is a typical example of this, even inanimate objects such as red traffic lights can upset people.
Has anyone ever driven slowly in front of you and you've become irritated?
Have you then started complaining to yourself about the stupid driver and then found yourself getting angrier and even yelling?
The anger is a health hazard.
It doesn’t help your driving either.
Nor does it make the other person drive any faster!
Is there an alternative so you stay safe, happy and well?
Yes!
By having empathy for people.
When you have empathy it can protect you from becoming upset.
It will assist you in not getting hassled by what people say or do.
Then you can stay less frustrated and upset.
Then you can be happier and healthier.
If you view people kindly it will help you form and maintain co-operative working and personal relationships more easily too.
How can you have more empathy and judge people more kindly?
There are many ways.
Read on to the tips section to find out.

The TOP TIPS: How to increase empathy even with difficult people.

Tip 1: Choose kindness over harshness.

If in doubt judge people with kindness and empathy. It is so easy to dislike someone and to blame them for being selfish, mean, bossy or to make some other harsh judgement about them. Pause before you do this. You may be completely wrong in your interpretation of what is going on. When you are kind in your judgement of someone and give them the benefit of the doubt, then you have more chance of expressing empathy and saving yourself from the negative side effects of anger, frustration or resentment. This means you will stay happier and feel less stress. It is a big bonus for you to reap just by being generous to another person.

When we can all judge each other more kindly and increase empathy the world will be a much better place. We will experience less conflict, less unpleasantness and greater love and acceptance. That makes it worth it.

Tip 2. Ask the other person how they are.

If people do something you do not approve of, instead of jumping to conclusions about what is going on or quickly dismissing them, ask the person what is happening in their lives. Instead of taking to heart something people say or do, investigate. Be concerned about the other person. Be curious about what emotions may underline their behaviour. Be able to suspend your own assumptions and instead find out their view of what is going on. Develop empathy. Ask instead of assuming. Ask instead of believing that your assumptions are correct. Suspend your judgement and be open to the other person's story. This is what empathy is.

Tip 3. Imagine sympathetic reasons for the behaviour.

When I am driving behind a slow driver I have taught myself to let go of my frustration and negative judgements, such as "idiot", "infuriating tourists", or "stupid driver, can't he read the signs?".
How? By overcoming my lack of empathy and creating reasons why it is essential to drive slowly. My reasons not only help me keep my calm but sometimes they make me laugh too. Another bonus.
What kind of reasons do I imagine? One of my favourites is that he is driving slowly because he has an enormous basket of eggs in the front seat and is worried he will break them. Others may be that his partner is about to give birth and he is being gentle for her sake, or that he is too poor to afford the cost of a new speedometer in his car ... any excuse will do fine. All that matters is that it helps me have empathy for the driver and that I stay content and calm and enjoying my day. Why give my happiness away to a slow driver anyway?

Tip 4. Consider how you may have contributed to the situation.

It is easy to blame other people for their behaviour without considering your own contribution to the problem. Blaming others is not empathy. Instead of blaming, consider your own behaviour, what you did or did not do, what you said, how you said it, what your facial expression implied, what your intent was and so on. Become aware of how you might have contributed to triggering the other person's behaviour. Was it a reaction to your own? When you take some of the responsibility it can stop you from developing harsh judgements about other people and help you to have more empathy with them.

Tip 5. Stop any bias.

Another way to overcome a lack of empathy is to ask yourself, "Do I bring any bias into my judgement? Would I judge it differently if the person were the opposite gender, younger, older, of a different ethnicity, more or less experienced, with blonde or brown hair?" Check that your opinion is not being influenced by irrelevant factors.

Tip 6. Accept their feelings.

What is empathy? Empathy is understanding another person's feelings, situation or point of view without criticism. It is a form of acceptance. I accept that you feel as you have told me. Full stop. No argument. No trying to talk them out of it. No telling them how silly they are for thinking or feeling like they do.

Thus, if people are upset and finding it hard to manage some aspects of their lives, you may express empathy by showing complete understanding of their worldviews. As an example of empathy you might say, "So you are finding it tough at the moment; and feeling short of money is stressing you out and making you anxious".

Another example of empathy might be when you are talking to someone about the death of her or his cat. You may not like cats. You may also think that it had a good life as it was 19 years old when it died. You may thus not see what all the fuss is about. However, the person is deeply saddened by the cat's death and feeling at a loss. Instead of showing a lack of empathy, and saying, "You must expect these things when your cat is so old," you might show more empathy if you said, "It's going to be hard for you not to have your cat around after all these years."

Irrespective of your own personal view, expressing empathy demonstrates you understand another person's view and can suspend your own.
 
More tips on expressing empathy and reducing anger and frustration
There are several sets on empathy and emotional intelligence for you to read.
Click on the links to read three of them:
  1. Ten tips on "How Not to Take Things to Heart".
  2. Ten tips on forgiving your parents.
  3. Ten Tips for Veterinarians on Emotional Intelligence.
     
By showing empathy to others you are also being kind to yourself.
Everyone wins.
Happiness at home and harmony at work are worth winning, aren't they?
 
With kindness,
Rachel.

E-mail: rachel@rachelgreen.com

Subscribe now

Click here to subscribe - it's f.r.e.e.
Please note, material in this newsletter is copyrighted and remains the intellectual property of RachelGreen.Com Pty Ltd.

Copyright 2005 RachelGreen.Com Pty Ltd
PO Box 344, Kelmscott, WA 6991 Australia
Phone: +61 8 9390 1188    Fax: +61 8 9390 1199


 

 



999 Reads
  • Posted by AsianWoman
  • Jul 8, 2009
  • 14 Smiles, 4 Comments



Please Log In To View/Add Comments, and Much More. :)