The Connection Power of Empathy

The Connection Power of Empathy

August 19, 2018 

Learning How to Build Relationships by Resonating with Others’ Experiences

“You’re clueless. You just don’t get me. You always have to be right.”
“You really understand. Thank you…that means a lot to me.”


When you truly understand someone’s perspective and emotionally connect with that person’s feelings, you invite/attract trust and favor.


Connection and Alienation

Most all humans like to be understood (“Do you see my point?”) and emotionally understood/appreciated?, (“Can you understand why I felt so angry?”)(revise) Most humans are not naturally good at these forms of empathy, and they experience relationships, especially close ones, as unsatisfying, shallow, even hostile. Good empathizers feel connected, loved, trusted, and appreciated. Empathy is the most important element of listening, and great listening is the main key to great communication.


“You can be right…

…or you can be happy,” so it’s been said. When you have to be “right”—overarguing your point, and when you “blame” someone—making things (all) “your fault,” it’s impossible to empathize, and so you can’t connect. You may change your own point of view, or hold on to it, and still empathize with someone.


Ego Must Be Tamed

Idea-despots and blamers allow their Ego runs their thinking and emotional lives, and are not so happy. When you tame your ego, you stop “making it about you” and you make it about someone else. This is quite painful at first, because you think your very identity, your worth, is crumbling. Paradoxically, when ego dies, vibrant life begins, a life of connected and genuine relationships.


How to Empathize

First note, empathy can be learned and improved. However, it’s not a sterile formula, but something that must be true-blue and heartfelt. To sharpen the point, or, to buff it more, it must be real, genuine, sincere. Rote or fake empathy is a lead balloon, even alienating or angering a person (or, the recipient). Initially, you will need to practice, think about it, prepare it, revisit it, until it becomes more natural. Not for the faint of heart. Here are the two major types of empathy:


Thought Empathy. With this, you repeat or summarize a person’s idea, and express how it makes sense to you in some way or in every way.

  • “I now realize that my sharp words were way out of place when others were around.”

  • “So you’re saying that because when I forget to do what I agreed to do, that it shows I don’t care about you, is that it?”

  • “Of course I can see that if I raise my voice or sound exasperated, that it sounds like I’m not respectful…and it’s not.”

Notice there are no “yes-buts”? A yes-but erases the power of empathy. Make your own point some other time.


Feeling Empathy. Here, you express your emotional connection with a person’s feelings, validating the emotion, and feeling it yourself in some way, perhaps deeply.

  • “You mean so much to me, and it saddens me to see you so anxious.”

  • “I apologize for dismissing your question at the meeting. I imagine you were ticked off at me.”

  • “I feel bad that I raised my voice. I was annoyed, but I had no reason to do that, and I can’t blame you for being angry with me.”


The Reward of Emotional Connection

People are not used to hearing this kind of empathy. Would you not like to be the recipient of such? Would you not feel closer to that person? The price: to push fearful and selfish ego to the side, to truly experience what the other person experiences. The rule is, You must give it first to get it later. The result: greater trust, influence, closeness.


Action Steps

Start right here with these important steps if you are more deeply motivated to connect with other people than you are to being “right”:


► 1st Make a quick list of times you had to be “right,” whether with your coworkers, friends, family, partner, or children. Write clearly and specifically.


► 2nd
Start with one list-item and write how you could have empathized, writing the actual words. Look for flaws, or make it stronger, and write it again.

► 3rd
Speak with a person with whom you’d like to empathize, speaking with empathy. Or, interview that person to see where you messed up and how you empathize better. Remember, no yes-buts at that time.


* * *

 Copyright © 2018 Bernard E. Bilicki, PsyD. All rights reserved.


 Action Note: If you do no action step, this is only a scrap of paper or hollow letters on a screen. Make this newsletter come alive by doing an action step. (See “Newsletters, Directions and Suggestions” on my website for more help.)


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