I have always heard that communication was the most important thing in a relationship. However, recently I discovered there is another component to communication and that is “Empathy”. So now I feel, that actually the #1 secret to a happy relationship is empathy. Without empathy in communication, your communication is just a conversation.
Don’t confuse “Sympathy with Empathy”. Sympathy is “feeling sorry for someone”. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. In other words, seeing the world through your loved ones eyes. Empathy means caring about your loved ones’ well-being as you care about your own. It can truly make a difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.
How Do You Know If Your Relationship Lacks Empathy?
If you assume your partner shares the same needs, desires and life experiences as you, it’s time to think again. We all experience life events differently, and our needs and motivations are different as well. So, when you come to a place where you realize your loved one doesn’t share your thoughts or feelings the same way, adjustments are necessary. When I say adjustments, I mean you need to take a moment and have empathy (put yourself in their shoes) to understand their point of view in a situation. This is not saying you have to agree with their point of view, but allow them to feel comfortable in sharing their view, opinion or need, etc. After all, empathy is the willingness and ability to listen, really listen and reflect back your partner’s experience. So if you see, that this is not what happens in your relationship it is possible that the relationship lacks empathy.
Here Are Some Ways You Can Apply Empathy To Improve Your Relationship
- Listen to the emotional message in your partners statement. Sometimes the message is saying one thing, but the emotion is about something else. We are not mind readers, so this can be tricky. For example: “You always come home late” (statement), but the emotion is saying, “I am scared I am not important to you anymore.” Try your best to not react but, slowdown and try to understand what emotion is behind the statement.
- Sometimes, you have to allow yourself to step out of your own emotional experience to be able to listen and seek understanding of your partner’s experience.
- Finally, show empathy by reflecting back your partner’s experience in your own words, such as “What I’m hearing you say is________________________________” or “You must be feeling _______________________”, can help make sure the two of you are understanding the moment. This takes practice and patience to perfect this method of improving communication and understanding. But, it should show your loved one that you are trying to understand where they are in their experience at that moment and you care for them and seek to validate them as being heard.
Empathy is not a cure all, but it can go a long way in strengthening your relationship with the one you love.
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Find Joy In Your Journey!