How to make empathy your strength
Where did this idea of empathy as a weakness come from? Is it because empathy involves emotions, which are often considered a "soft" side of human behavior? There seems to be a defense against empathy based on
Empathy is the ability to share the feelings of others, understand what those feelings may mean, and doing so with enough self-reflection to remain emotionally balanced. Empathy requires that we can clearly differentiate
between our own feelings and those of others. The balance of empathy
takes strength, it is a skill and ability of those who are centered and
The strength to step outside ourselves
One of the most challenging aspects of empathy is to step out of our own private world. Empathy is the opposite of self-absorption and narcissism. Of course we all want to be safe and secure, so we need to be able to take care of ourselves. Our survival can and should have a self-focus. But self-focus alone does not build communities, nor even smaller groups and families. To step into the shoes of others takes strength, it takes the ability and willingness to set our own needs aside to allow us to think about others.
What are the strengths needed for empathy? We need the ability to set boundaries, the training to balance our own emotions, and the skills to gain insight into context and the conditions of others. These are abilities that do not come automatically to us. We need to learn to be empathic. And like with all skills, the learning takes time, practice, and the commitment to keep at it.
Work on your empathy
Building our empathy can be likened to athletes who practice their skills so that their actions are second-nature to them. Stepping into the lives of others takes action. Waiting for the urge to come to us will not deepen our empathic
We need to: Set good boundaries between ourselves and others so that we can distinguish between our feelings and those of others.
Maintain balance while experiencing the emotions of others. Regulating our feelings allows us to think clearly rather than become overwhelmed.
Develop awareness of our surroundings to gain insight into context.
Concentrate on what the feelings of others mean when walking in their shoes. Do not impose your own views, rather imagine what it is really like to be the other person, see the world through their eyes as if you were them.