Empathy is a very powerful communication skill that is often completely missing in a person in early recovery. It is a teachable construct that has many positive benefits in relationships. Effective empathetic communication enhances intimacy. The basis of the word comes from the German “einfuhlung” translated to “in feeling”. This describes the appreciation of another’s emotional state. It has further been described as the process of understanding another person’s subjective experience vicariously.
It leads to a deeper understanding of another human being.
Simply stated, it is the ability to understand another person’s experience from that person’s point of view.
Or to “walk a mile in his shoes” Some of the basic tools –
you can use while developing empathy include:
Recognizing the current feelings of another person
Stopping to imagine how the other is feeling
Stating our perception of the other persons feeling
Validating the others feelings
Offering Support (not a fix!!)
Some trite examples of empathy statements fall into 3 categories:
Queries, Clarifications and Responses
Queries statements could be:
“Can you tell me more about that?”
“What is that like for your?”
“And how has that affected you?”
Clarifications could be:
“So what this is like for you is...?”
“So I understand you are feeling…”
“Sounds like you are…”
“That must be …”
When empathy is authentically used in communication, intimacy will begin to occur.
It will prevent content filled communication and begin process.
Content filled communication is when we keep talking about the problem in a logical manner. With this style of communication, we often see a couple getting frustrated and loud.
As an example, if a friend looses a job, we may focus on how he lost his job and what he is going to do about it.
Empathetic process communication will be about how it feels for our friend, validating our friend’s feelings and perhaps sharing what it might be like if we lost our job.
You will find Empathy a valuable tool in conflict resolution also.
If a person feels criticized and judged, he is more likely to be defensive.
If a person is felt understood, they are more likely to be open to solutions.
You will notice that a feeling of living with the solution
rather than the problem will occur.