Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy seems to be a lost art in 2018. We’ve lost the ability to understand each other, the willingness to ask questions to reach a common ground, and the desire to listen to people whose opinions may differ from ours. The political divide in our country has reached an all-time record of hostility, encouraged by our inability to empathize with others.
We hid behind screens, firing incomprehensible mean comments at those we don’t agree with. We ignore those publicly hurting, grieving, and crying out because it is easier to turn the other cheek. We retreat inward when the pain of the outside world becomes too much to bear.
Embracing empathy begins with understanding the emotions we are feeling. Being able to identify why you are angry or sad or tired or lonely is the first step to being able to identify with others. Unplugging for an hour and replacing that screen time with journaling and meditating can bring you closer to your own feelings.
Finding a common ground with others is the next step. Sharing your stories and listening to others breaks down the walls we build around our hearts, allowing others to understand why we act the way that we do. This common ground lets us feel supported, seen, and heard, and is crucial to building empathy with people around us.
Finally, you must be present with others to really understand them. Give people your undivided attention. Reach out to a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. Have a digital-free dinner with them. Ask them questions. Dive in.
Empathy can sometimes be this complex feeling that we can’t find the energy to understand. But when you break it down, practicing empathy becomes a simple task. You just have to be willing to put the energy in.