Creating Empathetic Experiences
I’m glad you took interest in what I had to write about empathy earlier. Well once I got interest in this topic I began to think how do I now progress?
So here are some of my own read, learnt and most importantly experienced behavioral traits and tacts that helped me develop this skill. I’m still learning, truth be told and Little Miss Sunshine* had a lot to contribute to my learning.
*The scene where one of the characters is upset and all are trying to cheer him and little miss sunshine very cutely walks up to him, silently seats herself close to him and hugs him genuinely and warmly. That’s that and he is up and moving.
1. Zone of unfamiliarity
Speaking to a stranger and trying to build a connect or understanding more about him or her is one of the easiest ways to (a) build your own awareness and comfort and (b) gather perspectives. This then starts to become a discipline and by default a boon in times when you truly need to empathize, probe or just listen.
2. Validate the other person’s perspective
Empathy is a lot to do with validation and true understanding of what really the other person is wanting and meaning to say. Not just the words but the feelings and intent behind that. Careful here – the idea is not to question the intent but to ensure the intention is well understood. If someone claims I didn’t intend to hurt her – it’s not your place to counter-question that but instead to explore what did he intend then or maybe what really happened for him to act different from his intent. But to do that first is to respect that intent.
3. Repeat your stance whilst you take ownership
It’s easy to say I am Empathetic Depends on the situation. No actually you are always or can always be empathetic however you let go of that choice and go to the previous modes of behavior. This is exactly what I did in the past. What I’ve found is that it is easier to just repeat what you mean in a different manner altogether by using I statements like “I don’t think I made myself clear. Allow me to restate what I mean…”
4. Role reverse
Sometimes empathy also involves creativity. It involves allowing the person to change positions psychologically to see and seek perspective. Building an empathetic viewpoint for someone else is as much using the skill of Empathy as empathizing with that person. So sometimes simply ask what the other person would do if he were in the other side of his / her story.
5. To kill a mocking bird
Remember this movie? It spoke about getting into the skin of a person and walking around in it till you truly begin to understand him.
Well empathy is like that. So to kill a mocking bird I believe surface level conversations need to move beyond that…the surface. Deciphering the deeper meaning of what’s really going on and having the courage and patience to hear the person out without wanting to interrupt or narrating your tale is truly getting into the skin of that person. I once had a client in HR struggling with people problems. I was there to offer solutions but all I did was listen…attentively, respectfully, agreeably and she felt so heard. The solution post that conversation flew and appeared naturally to her as she had much more clarity of what she wanted.
6. Leave him / her alone
Sometimes the best form of empathy is to a) refrain from advice at that moment… (b) stop using techniques, metaphors or pep talks – the person is not with you and you can see that …c) just gently ask if the person wants to say something …wait for some time; just be there and maybe a gentle touch on the shoulder indicating to the person Let me leave you by yourself. Self-processing of one’s own emotional state is many a-times a huge boon, to atleast come to terms with oneself and into a frame of mind where someone can assist you help gain clarity and explore choices to solutionize.
On a closing note: So with this I pen down my thoughts and hope that this discussion was of some help to you. So next time you see someone struggling, fighting a battle, feeling upset about something or just needs someone who could listen then maybe some of these or one of these experiences may help. Try it to know it. I did and that’s how I learnt it. Finally the best teacher is experience, isn’t she? And remember she can come in any form only if you are ready to believe in her, to receive her and ask for her.
Write to me, connect with me or do attend one of my seminars. I’d be glad to have you as a part of me and my life story.
Penning Off – Daruma from Dantotsu: A Learning Movement