Understanding Empathy


Finding yourself stuck in a cycle of negativity, or similar arguments with someone you love?

Our relationships can suffer because we minimize one anothers feelings.  Even if doing so was not our intention.  Many of us lack the ability to see another persons perspective.  Often times we are too focused on our own feelings and experiences, that we completely miss the mark.  We miss opportunities to connect with others, because we are being “selfish”, or at least coming across as such.

More and more, I’m noticing that much of what we communicate tends to get lost in translation.  We attack one another simply because we believe we were wronged in some way.  The worst part is that when these messages are misunderstood, many of us fail to gain clarification on the intended message.  As a result, maybe you spend the next day replaying that conversation in your head.  Man, have I been there one too many times! I admit that I have let my imagination run wild, without taking a moment to calm those nasty convos in my head.

Then, when I am able to confront the “issue”, I often learn that I was wrong.  So, realistically I’ve spent an unimaginable amount of time dwelling over things that could have been cleared up if I was able to understand the other’s interpretation without having my feelings block my judgement.

Psychotherapist Cindy Sigal, AMFT (Relationshipshttp://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/08/the-power-of-empathy-in-romantic-relationships-how-to-enhance-it/) has a wonderful perspective on how to improve empathy in our relationships.

What is EMPATHY?

Cindy discussed three different types: Cognitive (we don’t lose sight of our feelings).  Here we are able to recognize others feelings without experiencing these same feelings ourselves.

Emotional (sharing feelings with your partner or others). If your hurting, I’m hurting. If you’re angry, I’m angry too.

Compassionate ( a whole person response (changing our own behavior).  With this type, we realize what our partner may be experiencing, and actively alter our behavior to increase positive feelings.  For example, you may know that today wasn’t a good day for the other person.  Instead of adding onto their current stress load, you do something different.  You may say kind words, or pick up their favorite snack.


In addition to understanding the different types of empathy, it will also be helpful to identifying the Road Blocks from experiencing empathy.

-Getting sucked into our own perspectives (how we are feeling vs our partner): From my experiences with others including what I’ve been through personally, is that many disputes/disagreements occur when you feel the other person isn’t listening, or feel as though they do not care.  Many of us become stuck with defending ourselves when communicating, because for some reason we feel attacked.  What can possibly be resolved if both of you aren’t even attempting to understand the others perspective?  You’d don’t have to agree with them, but this will help you grain clarity.  I’m definitely still a work in progress!

-Focusing on negatives: Can you imagine a lifetime full of complaints, with no motivation to make any positive changes? #exhausting. We all have our days of picking out the “wrongs”, but what about trying to clear a tiny circle off of that filthy mirror from time to time.  This will definitely keep your relationships “stuck” in the helpless zone. Try finding at least one positive for every 3 negatives.  This may be challenging if your thinking has already been shaped by constant negative messages, but your situation is not hopeless. Train yourself to think differently…it’s never too late to learn something new. 🙂

-Treat ourselves how we would treat others: I admit that am not the best example of this.  I allow others the ability to make mistakes, and offer them my best advice and encouraging words.  But, I don’t always allow myself these same luxuries.  Yes, I want to push myself, and learn from past experiences.  How will this be possible if I won’t even give myself the opportunity to reflect on these roadblocks?

I hope that today is a wonderful day for everyone, and we all are able to improve our Empathy!

What contributes to your overall satisfaction in your romantic relationships ( past, present, or future)?



Photo #1:http://www.canstockphoto.com/

Photo #2: http://www.lifetimeloveaffair.com/


26 thoughts on “Understanding Empathy

  1. I think I am very empathetic, however my issue lies in accepting it for myself when needed. Just like you mentioned that you do not allow the same “luxuries” for yourself, I, too, can be too hard on myself and often desire to take care of things on my own. That action shuts people out so I need to open up more in that aspect.
    It can be difficult to have others let you in if you don’t reflect that action yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to argue with people often to explain empathy versus sympathy often! I have done it until I am blue in the face! People do not understand that that walking a mile in someone’s shoes is important! You need to comprehend what someone COULD be going through even if you are not currently going through it. No said you had to cry because they are or laugh because they are, that’s sympathy! 2 totally different things! I love this post!

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  3. Pingback: Understanding Empathy | Myasthenia Gravis

  4. Do you think there’s such thing as being too empathetic? I often find myself very sensitive to other people’s moods and try to adjust my behavior accordingly but I ultimately end up feeling like I’m walking on eggshells.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are on a mission today to challenge me huh?! Lol. It sounds like you’re extremely compasionate. You care so much about others, that you try super hard not to rock the boat anymore than it should be. I don’t think you can too empathetic. But, you shouldn’t always feel like it’s hard tgo express yourself, based on how others may respond. Yes, be sensitive to their situation like you have been, but try not to lose sight of your own voice. There has to be a way for both of you guys to win. Maybe it’s difficult to fully express yourself that moment, but I hope that you are able to revisit the convo at a later time. In my experience, when I disn’t fully express myself, I grew to resent certain people and things. Empathy should work both ways. Not just you caring about the other person…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, I was on a reading/commenting blitz today. I’m just getting back into the groove of things. I think you’re right, I probably need to let the boat rock every once in a while. I’ve also been trying to stand up for myself more often (it’s hard).

        Liked by 1 person

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