The greatest lesson I have learnt in my entire life took place when I was 15 years of age. A guest speaker had come to my school at the time and came to speak about empathy.
The simple dictionary definition for empathy states that it is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Essentially, putting oneself in the shoes of another in order to realise how another person feels in a particular moment or in the position in which they find themselves.
Yes, it sounds quite simple but as with most things that sound simple, it proves to actually be quite a difficult thing to do.
The guest speaker however gave us a trick card, one that I would continue to carry with me for the years that followed and to this day. The speaker reminded us that we, as people, tend to react to what is thrown at us in a manner that often reflects what we have been on the receiving end of. In other words, if someone is particularly rude to us we tend to be quite rude back, feeling justified in our reaction because well, “they were rude to me too”.
Now, the trick card does not make it any easier nor does it teach us to feel empathy but rather it taught us when to use it. The card essentially says that when someone says something that hurts you, instead of feeling that hurt try to consider why they are saying the words that they do. Many a times one finds that people say things with the intention to hurt others either as a defend themselves from their own hurt that they experience or that they simply said it when they let themselves get lost in their emotions and rid of all sense of reason.
Understanding this allows for us to react to the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ of what is being said. By doing this we have developed a sense of empathy without having to place ourselves in the position of another person, an impossible task to achieve in reality.
With this sense of understanding I was able to respond better to situations and further see hurtful things directed towards me as heated words aimed to hurt rather than personal attacks on myself. We are then also to able to realise why we respond to certain things the way we do.
Furthermore, seeing the ‘why’ makes this process all the more easier while broadening our own sense of understanding both of ourselves and others. Words are powerful, but the outcome of words said is dependent on ourselves and how we receive words.
When we try to connect let’s use this trick card. We are better equipped to communicate with others when we think of the ‘why’. Let’s start today.