The Power of Empathy – “I Feel You”

Empathy“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. – Mohsin Hamid

 

Perhaps you have heard people use the phrase “I feel you” as they listen to some heartfelt sharing from another. Perhaps you have used that shorthand expression for EMPATHY.

The dictionary definition for empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” That definition goes on to include that you can have this connection and understanding even when others have not fully explained their situation to you. In other words, you are tuned into the plights of others, and you can react in ways that show you understand what they are going through even when you don’t know all the details.

I can’t think of many other things more needed in our world today, full of fractures and divisions, than empathy. Clearly there are people with stories that need to be heard but even more important is to be able to genuinely say “I feel you” in response to them. And it goes beyond that. It’s part of a cycle so beautifully described in these words by Stephen Mattson:

“Imagination leads to empathy, empathy leads to understanding, understanding leads to action, action leads to experience, and experience leads to wisdom – which leads to even more imagination.”

Mattson notes that the cycle begins and ends with imagination because “When you can’t imagine, you can’t empathize, understand, or relate with the actions, struggles, pain, suffering, persecution, and trials of others — you become apathetic, unmoved, stoic, and inactive.”

The impact of our ability to empathize with others’ situations and experiences is huge. It begins with those closest to us and can ripple beyond. Can you imagine the impact if more of the decision-making at all levels were based on conscious efforts to imagine and empathize with the situations of all the people affected in a given situation? The lack of that is clear to us as we look around. As Charles M. Blow has said, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

Practicing imagination and empathy also supports our own emotional and social wellness. How can being empathetic make you a happier, healthier, more well-rounded person?

You Can Be More Accepting of Others

When you have empathy, you recognize that everyone is entitled to their own experiences, that we are all different, and that you cannot change others. Acceptance of others’ differences, views, feelings, and thoughts means you do not judge them for these differences but instead are empathetic to how those differences impact their lives and experiences.

Empathy allows you to see others as unique instead of wrong, to value their perspectives, and to appreciate what you might be able to learn from others.

You Can Give Up Trying to Control Others’ Feelings

It is not possible to tell someone else how to feel, or to control others’ reactions. Everyone has a right to their own perspectives and emotions, and when you have empathy, you are able to see and appreciate this. This acceptance of others’ emotions is the key to empathy, and when you develop acceptance and empathy toward others, you have mastered a vital life skill.

Your Relationships Will Improve

When you have empathy, you learn how to treat other people with the care and compassion you wish others would use when they interact with you. Empathetic people also work to understand and respond to the needs of others, which they, in turn, will likely reciprocate with you.

Empathy helps you deal more effectively with interpersonal conflict, which means there will be less friction and strife with those you care for, and you can even learn how to better motivate those with whom you live and work.

You Can Share More Fully in Others’ Joy

Empathy does not have to be limited to understanding the challenges and turmoil of others. Empathy can also include understanding and responding to the joys and good events in others’ lives.

Learning to be happy for others is actually a skill you need to practice, as our brains are hard-wired to respond to others’ distress but naturally do not respond as strongly to others’ happiness. But, learning to do this not only helps you connect with others more fully, but it also can enhance your own perspective on your joys and blessings in life.

Final Thoughts

Empathy is your link to yourself as well as other people. Going far beyond sympathy, empathy is our ability to have the “I feel with” experiences regularly. Through imagination and personal experience, we are able to relate to others on a deeper level.

This skill is one that should be cultivated throughout one’s life, as it is essential for personal development. There are many books on the topic to explore, including some for children. Can you imagine the long term effect of having truly empathetic people in charge of our organizations and government. Cultivating this in ourselves and the younger generations can be a path to long term change.

Books on Empathy for Adults and Children

Planning for Summer!

Summer at LakeSummer of 2021 is shaping up to be a season of emergence – from restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, from our personal decisions about staying safe, from isolation of various types. Caution is still important; the pandemic is not over. But higher and higher rates of vaccinations are allowing us to make some plans. Planning for summer – what a concept! Last year we couldn’t really make plans!

One tool to use is mind mapping – I wrote about that last year at about this time. http://carolbrusegar.com/creatively-planning-with-many-unknowns/ That post includes additional general mind mapping resources.

Another approach is creating a vision board for the upcoming season. I wrote about that here: https://carolbrusegar.com/create-a-spring-and-summer-vision-board/

Perhaps you are planning a vacation far from home. Even then, there are weeks of summer during which you can enjoy staycations, day trips, mini-vacations and fun outings of all kinds. Put on your thinking cap and think of yourself as a local tourist. Use the same approach as when you are going to an unfamiliar location and spend some time to discover things to enjoy. Make a list and do some planning – get some dates on your calendar.

Here are 5 categories of things to explore.

Find The Water

When it’s hot outside, there’s nothing better than dipping into a cool pool or lake or going for a swim in the ocean. Take a look at what options you have in your area. Go explore local lakes, rivers, and creeks that you can swim, wade, boat or fish in. If you’re living close enough to the beach, take a daytrip to go swimming or get in a boat.

Finding local pools is another great option. Many cities have public pools that are surprisingly fun and underused. Of course neighborhood pools are another fun option. If you don’t have one yourself, meet up with a friend who’s lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a pool.

And don’t forget about having fun with water at home. Get a kiddie pool, water toys, or turn on the sprinklers and cool off. Note: these are not restricted to children!

Dive Into History

How much do you know about the local history in your area? Make it a point to read up on it this summer and explore local historic places and museums. It’s fun for adults, but also a great educational experience for the kids. Encourage them to read up, explore, and maybe even create a project around some aspect of history that interests them.

Many cities and areas with a rich history offer various different tours that you may not be aware of. It’s worth contacting your local visitor or tourist office to find out what you’ve been missing. You can start close by and expand your exploration to a wider circle of possibilities.

Use Calendars of Nearby Events

Take a look at your local calendars of events. There are usually citywide listings available from visitors bureaus and through media outlets. Look also for more localized listings through neighborhoods or larger sections of your city or town. There are often classes, concerts, movie showings, and even festivals you may not be aware of.

Between events your city or county puts on and various other events hosted by cultural centers, museums, and churches for example, you’ll be sure to find quite a few things you may want to attend this summer.

Fun In The Back Yard

In addition to water fun in the back yard, what else can you do? How about dining al fresco – at a table or on blankets for a picnic – or having a campfire/fire pit for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, making S’Mores or even sleeping under the stars? Treat your home like a vacation spot, get everyone outside and have some fun.

What outdoor games fit into your yard? Badminton, frisbees, and croquet are a starting point. Plan for occasional outdoor game nights during the summer months.

Explore A New Culture

We sometimes think of traveling far from home to explore another culture, but most likely there are multiple opportunities right in your own city, town, or area. What cultural groups beyond your own are represented close by?

Identify one or more and research what is available. Restaurants, summer cultural events, sections of town and classes are possibilities. Find some books, movies and music of that culture. You might even learn a little of the language.

By simply putting some planning and effort into a staycation you can have amazing experiences this summer that will cost a fraction of a regular trip.

To help all of us in this process, I have created two items which are available on Amazon:

Planner & Journal for Day Trips: Getaways and Mini-Vacations    This includes five sections: 1) Research: Finding Possibilities; 2) Day Trips for Us (specific trips or destinations you are interested in); 3) Day Trip Preparation; 4) Our Day Trips (a page for each trip you are planning, plus journal pages and blank pages for journaling and drawing; and 5) Your Day Trip Log (a list of the day trips you have taken

3-Part Bucket List and Journal  With this 3-Part Bucket List, you will divide your desires into three main categories: 1) things I want to learn about, 2) things I want to learn to do, and 3) things I want to do. In addition there are goal setting/planning sheets, journaling pages and doodling/sketching/mind mapping pages.

Happy planning for summer!!

Five Useful Applications of Mind Mapping

Mind MapMind Mapping – do you use it regularly? Have you tried it but use it only sporadically? Have you rejected it as a tool in your toolbox? Or do you really not know what it is or why you should consider it? I invite you to consider five useful applications of mind mapping that can make a real difference.

If you want an introduction or refresher on the concept, I have written about it here: https://carolbrusegar.com/mindmapping-multi-faceted-tool/

Many people who seek to embody a positive mindset and to break down roadblocks on a regular basis find that mind mapping is extremely effective in these five ways.

Rocking Your Goals Daily

Mind maps can help overcome our tendency to lose focus on goals and be distracted – even going down the proverbial rabbit holes. Having visual mind maps posted where you see them makes it easy to review daily as a visualization and inspire massive action. A good mind map contains your short-term and long-term goals. By viewing your short-term goals daily, you can make mental connections on how achieving them with confidence will lead to the completion of your long-term goals.

Use a goal-setting method that works well for you. The S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system is highly recommended, and it works very well in a mind map structure. With a mind map, everything is in one place, and at a glance, you can be motivated to work on that short term goal right away. The images will stimulate your brain to find ways to help you stay on track with your goals.

Making Your Meeting Count

Planning a meeting often goes off track as you may forget different important items as you make up your written agenda. By using a mind map, you can organize your thoughts and make different connections to related topics, which may not have occurred to you. Meetings that are planned and delivered via a mind map keep the team engaged as everything is drilled down in a logical form and delivered in short keywords and images.

For a couple of years, I prepared mind map agendas for a weekly committee meeting. They provided a unique and helpful way to navigate meetings that included lots of discussion and tangents. The visual made it easy to switch the order of topics and see the way back to what was missed.

Controlling Information Overload

Information overload can cause stress, anxiety, and even mild depression. In a busy workplace and life, you are taking in vast amounts of information, and sometimes it can be quite complex. This may result in overload and overwhelm.

Mind maps using a single page with keywords, images, and the brief notes that you can attach to various branches are so efficient. There is no searching around for related data as it is all in one spot. You can quickly make connections between different facts, ideas, and topics, which gets your brain working in a flow state.

Preparing for Presentations

If you have ever watched an ill-prepared presentation, you know how painful that is. By using a mind map, you can brainstorm ideas and dump them into your mind map. A mind map functionality allows you to quickly sort/move/edit/add to your presentation and make it come alive.

With mind maps, you are more focused on the key ideas, and there is no wandering off-topic. Having a mind map rather than a script makes for a much more engaging presentation. With color and image usage, you will keep the audience participation alive and full of discussion.

This can also be applied to informal, personal situations like important, perhaps difficult conversations – whether one-on-one or small groups like family or friends.

Making Decisions More Easily

Like information overload, you are faced with difficult decisions every day. A mind map allows you to start with your main problem and develop a hierarchy of possible solutions. Entering keywords in related sub-branches helps you organize options. Your brain will sort through these and make connections that you would not have on paper or if you were thinking out loud. Going through your mind map will have you looking at the main issue from different angles, which, in turn, brings up those unique solutions. It also helps you narrow down possibilities. Making decisions becomes so much easier as you become more familiar with and use this amazing tool.

In addition to trying these five useful applications of mind mapping, I encourage you to learn more. There are a wide variety of books, workbooks, and journals available about various aspects of mind mapping and how to effectively use it. Check out what’s available here: Mind Mapping Resources