Do want to improve the relationship you have with your child? Do you want to improve the relationship you have with your wife or girlfriend? Heck while we are at it, let’s improve our friendships and professional relationships too. In this video, we are going over empathy. This is a simple and amazingly effective way to improve how you deal with people.
When my daughter was 4 or 5 years old, and she had just started kindergarten. She is getting ready for school and she seems a little for frazzled than normal. But it’s our normal morning hurry schedule and say “Get your shoes on and let’s go!”
She yells back at me “I can’t find my shoes” and begins crying. I respond back to her with the typical male sensitivity “How do you not know where your shoes are? We have a shoe rack and all of your shoes are supposed to be there. What did you do with your shoes?
She replies, “I DON’T KNOW” and has now gone from crying into hysterical. As a grown man, if I can’t find my shoes, I might look a little further and then maybe choose another pair of shoes. It’s really not that big of a deal.
I grabbed another pair of shoes for her, and she is beside herself in the backseat on the way to school. It’s a total meltdown as those were her favorite shoes. It wasn’t the best way to start the day.
After that incident, I felt bad for her and thought also how I could have handled that situation better so so I would not have been upset either. I had failed to realize is that to a 5 year old, who just started kindergarten so she hasn’t been doing this very long, not being able to find her shoes is devastating, along with the stress of having to go to school. So I dug into my parenting coursework and realized that if a situation like that happens again, I could use empathy to help her and myself. Guess what, when you have young children these opportunities come up all the time.
Within a few days, we had ANOTHER shoe crises. However this time I was ready. So I see my daughter begin to look around and get upset. I immediately stepped in and said “having toruble finding your shoes again? She looks at me about to cry and I said “Oh that’s so frustrating. You think your shoes are right here and they are not. She looks at me and nods her head yes. I say, “Do you want me to help you look for them? Where do you remember seeing them last? I ended up finding the shoes near the front door. and we are off to school.
The purpose of the story was the way that I handled the situation the second time was by using empathy. I put myself in my daughter’s place, realizing that it was a big deal to her. It certainly wasn’t to me, but I know it was for her. She responded better and felt better because of how I handled it. and I felt better too.
We as men usually try to solve any problems that are brought to our attention by offering solutions our opinion of the situation. Our intention is to make things better, but we really don’t. The person on the other end in most cases doesn’t want you to solve it. They want you to listen to them and understand them. When you can do this, other people will feel connected to you. It is powerful.
Let me give you another example how being empathetic can work with your wife or significant other. You come home from work and your wife is upset. She just found out her mom fell and hurt her leg and she had to go to the hospital. Let’s do multiple choice on this one. Your response should be:
A) Well at least it’s not cancer. A broken leg is fixable
B) I remember when by dad hurt his leg. The recovery shouldn’t be too long.
C) Sometimes old people fall. It’s just something that happens.
NONE of these are good.
Not one shows any empathy whatsoever. What you can say is,” I can see that her being hurt is upsetting you. I’m really sorry that she has to go through this. Is there anything I can help with? The difference of how she will respond to you is night and day. You don’t have to offer a solution or your opinion on how to make it better. You offer empathy. For us guys it is not the normal way we respond to things but it’s the right way.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your new found use of empathy:
1) It needs to be genuine. You really have to see the situation from the other persons perspective. Listen to them. It might take practice but it is worth it. It needs to be genuine.
2) Don’t judge. You don’t have to agree and your opinion doesn’t matter. This is for them and your relationship with them. Don’t judge.
3) Connect. Verbalize that you can see or feel that they are upset. Offer your understanding and connect with them.
Remember, empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is typically feeling pity or sorrow for someone. Versus empathy is experiencing the situation as the other person. It’s much stronger in creating connections. I strongly encourage you to practice empathy as much as you can. You will see all of your relationships improve as a result.