Empathy Isn’t About How You Would React In Their Position

When we talk about empathy, we talk about being able to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person. That means being able to see things from their perspective, through their eyes.

But too often when we do that, what we actually do is ask ourselves what would I do in their position, which is not the same thing at all.

This is something that I still struggle with because as a confident person when I put myself in the shoes of another I always bring my confidence with me, as well as the rest of my strengths and weaknesses, so I see it as I would from their position, not how they would see it.

For example, imagine a change that would impact people by relocating them from one city to another.

As someone who has done that a lot, if I just see things as I would see them in their shoes, then I would think ok, this will be fine, and I would see it as an adventure, possibly even exciting.

But that’s not empathy.

Let’s imagine that they have never moved before, that they have always lived in the same place, close to their family. Maybe they have small children in school, whom their family helps them with.

Just thinking how I would react bears no relation to their situation, and of course, it would be tough to empathize.

To do that properly, I would have to imagine how I would feel if I had small children and was relocating for the first time. I have to imagine how it would be if I were nervous, worried about schooling, the lack of support, which neighborhood we’d live in, or how would I make new friends.

Only when I do that can, I truly understand their concerns, their positions, and then think about what I could do to help them, to make the transition easier and less stressful.

Empathy is hard to do because we all come with our own experiences, our own characteristics which give us a unique perspective, which could be completely different to someone else’s perspective.

We also have to remember that everyone has a different perspective and that to empathize with one person doesn’t mean that we have empathized with them all.

Empathy is hard to achieve. We have to work constantly on it, but if we can master it, it can deliver amazing benefits, such as stronger relationship, less conflict, lower stress levels, happier teams, more trust and of course better results.

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