Saturday, October 2, 2010

Empathy

I was having a conversation with my mother on the phone the other night and the topic of emotions and valid communication came up.  The truth of the matter is that when it comes to emotions, especially talking about them, I am wired more like a guy than a girl.  Emotional talk makes me uncomfortable whether or not I am the listener or the talker.  There is that old saying that says to treat people the way you would want to be treated.  So,  I have gone through my life avoiding emotional discussions, even with my closest friends, even with my mother, in hopes that they would reciprocate the gesture.  Needless to say, this has not been the case.  Friends and family have emotions and want to talk about them.  And no matter how much try to avoid it these important people in my life need my support.  They need my empathy. 


The day after my mother and I had this discussion she sent me a link to this article on empathy.  As I was reading the article it was like it was it was written for me, about me.  The article rang so true it was eerie.  I am terrible at being empathetic.  I don't want to sympathize with someone I want to help them fix their problems and I want them to feel better.  But, as the article points out, the reality is that most people want to feel like you understand they don't necessarily want you to fix it.  I can not count the number of times that the BF and I have been having an argument discussion and he tells me that I don't understand.  And most of the time, he is right.  I mean, I am not stupid, I understand his points from a logical perspective I just don't usually understand from an emotional perspective.  And, since he is a guy, he doesn't want me to fix anything.  He just wants to vent.  I am starting to get it.

Now that I know what my problem is the next step is to fix it.  According to the article, one of the first steps to learning how to be empathetic is to fake it.  That's right, fake it.  When someone says "I lost my job!" I am supposed to say, "That is terrible, how do you feel about that?"  (faking empathy) instead of, "Well, you didn't really like that job anyway" (what I really am thinking and would normally say).  Apparently, if you fake something long enough you can change your way of being, hopefully for the better. Nice!

This sounds hard, really hard.  I am one of those people that does not have a filter.  You know, that mental capability to make yourself STOP talking when what you are about to say something that is not appropriate.  But, this is something I have to work on.  Empathy is important.  Empathy is what my friends need from me, what my mom needs from me, what I need from me.  I realize that my lack of empathy is the likely the reason for the downfall of most of my failed relationships (notice I said most, not all.  There was that one time where it was most certainly HIS fault entirely.)

I think the lesson I learned from this article is that you should treat people the way THEY want to be treated, not the way YOU want to be treated.  I can do this.  I am up for the challenge.  I have to do this.

What are you working on these days to make yourself better?

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