As I mentioned a few posts back, while I have always considered myself an empathetic person, I realized recently that I don’t actually treat people with empathy.
I was the person trying to fix and solve. I was the person trying to feel other people’s pain so they wouldn’t have to feel it.
Today I realized my first problem is that often, I don’t even listen. I am that person that is formulating a response while the person is still talking. I have always valued quick responses. In conversations (think Gilmore Girls), in texting, in email. In any and all interactions.
But today, as a friend told me about a new job, and I replied to his text. And then replied again. And both times felt like I had missed the mark. I realized I needed to value slowness, thoughtfulness, and intention just a little bit more.
A meaningful, empathetic response is much more helpful than the quickest response.
My final text with filled with empathy. As I realized the first two texts missed the mark, I sat with what he had said. I sat with my knowledge of him. I sat with how I would feel if I were in his situation, if I said the things that he was saying. And then I finally responded in a way that provided true support.
We tend to forget that listening and empathy are skills that can be learned and practiced. We tend to forget the importance of these skills. But empathy can take someone from the edge. Empathy fosters connection and trust and love. And empathy is only possible with listening.
After all this happened, I did some research on active listening and came upon a sentiment I really liked. It talked about separating acknowledgement and agreement. Most of us associate the two. We think that acknowledging is agreeing, but that’s not true.
Acknowleding is accepting or admitting to some truth. Agreeing is having the same opinion.
What I’m saying, is you can accept that I am in pain, but not agree with how I might best mitigate that pain. Or you might not even agree that what caused me the pain should have caused me the pain. But you can still acknowledge it.
I am bad at listening.
And now that I’ve acknowledged it, I hope that I can improve that.
In my research I happened upon this TedTalk. I think it kind of gets away from itself, but I also think it makes some important points. And it makes me want to find a council of my own!