When was the last time you felt sorry for someone?
Did you have a hard time connecting to the reason they were suffering?
Did you find yourself not caring about what they care about?
This focus is sympathy, not empathy.
Chances are we don't need to learn this, we just need a reminder!
When we act out of sympathy it means we understand what the person is feeling. Chances are we're not really connecting with the other person though. If we don't move toward empathy our understanding is most likely realized as pity in our behaviors toward them.
When we act out of empathy, a connection emerges with the feelings of the one who is suffering. It means we feel what the person is feeling.
Empathy actually is sensing others' emotions. Imagining how another person feels and what they're thinking. It's the ability to identify how others are feeling and mirror them. It's truly connecting to their feelings from points of view other than our own. It's actively listening to what they have to say and at times feeling overwhelmed by their story.
When we act out of compassion, a connection happens with the person who is suffering alongside our willingness to relieve their suffering.
It's for you AND others
When we find it hard to treat ourselves with empathy (or compassion) we will also find it hard to treat others with empathy. A healthy relationship with ourselves allows for a deeper connection with others. This is connection to our shared humanity. It's the glue that holds our relationships, teams, organizations, communities and our world together.
Leadership is our behaviors. Our behaviors support the kind of relationship we desire to have with others. When you find yourself struggling to care about what the other person cares about, ask:
What kind of relationship do I want with them?
The answer will lead you away from the "thing" that's bothering them and toward a deeper connection with them as a person. Wasn't that your intention all along?