Life was much easier when you were a child. You would fall and scrape your knee, and you would get a band-aid. Maybe you felt bad about something that happened at school, your mom would sit you down with chocolate chip cookies and milk and listen while you told about your bad grade or time at recess. Understanding relationship communication now has become much more complex. There are several other psychological foundations that are needed in order to relate with others and respond in the best way.
Empathy versus Sympathy
If you are communicating with a friend or a loved one, you will need more than a bag of band-aids. Understanding the different ways to respond, and evaluating the most constructive communication can help you to become more constructive in your communication with others. If there is a dramatic happening, an emotional response to a situation or a phase in life that a friend needs help with, you can easily begin to balance the situation by your response.
One of the levels of communication that you can take with a relationship is by understanding the difference between empathy and sympathy. Both of these responses, while being effective, will provide more effective band-aids to what is being communicated with you. This will allow you to move deeper into a relationship and to begin to make a sincere connection with the communication that is occurring.
Responding through sympathy is known to be the band-aid for relationship communication. Being sympathetic for someone is simply the first step in a relationship. For example, if someone tells you about something that has occurred you will most likely respond by saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that happened to you.” This is a sympathetic response because you are sorry for what has happened.
“…empathy… you are willing to understand the pain of the wound that has occurred.”
When you are practicing empathy, you are more willing to move deeper into the sympathetic understandings. Rather than a band-aid, you are willing to understand the pain of the wound that has occurred. Empathic understand requires you to move deeper into the situation and feel the pain that is being expressed to you through the communication. You will have the ability to evaluate what the other person is feeling and link it to your own emotions which will create the deeper understandings and empathy by feeling the pain the other person is going through.
Why Practice Empathy?
Many individuals will wonder what the big deal is about using empathy in a relationship. What is the difference between acknowledging someone’s level by using sympathy or by understanding it an internal level? The other person is obviously learning how to move past it and is able to express their emotions on their own.
When you begin to practice empathy in your relationships, you can also begin to create deeper and more intimate relationships with the other person. You are able to share the pain that is taking place. The result is a better support system and the ability to begin working on the feelings that have taken hold of the other person. Being in an intimate relationship with another person requires this deeper level of understanding.
Beyond understanding will be the ability to support and find ways to analyze the situation. When deeper levels of understanding occur, you are able to create a more constructive support system. When you can truly understand another’s pain, you can help them to begin to examine the emotions and move outside of the space that has been created for the suffering or sadness that they are going through. The result will be the ability to move the emotions into another direction towards changes and initiation past the pain that is occurring.
How to Practice Empathy
While sympathy is the beginning to good communication and understand, empathy can help move beyond the superficial levels of a relationship into true understand. Learning how to become empathetic to another person will give you the ability to have a more intimate relationship that is more conducive of growth and complete understanding.
You can begin to create more intimate relationships with someone by learning how to be sincere and emphatic with someone. The beginning of this is by learning how to listen to someone on deeper levels. The first step to doing this is to listen to what is being said, not only through the situation that is being described, but also by the emotions that are attached to the situation.
After you are able to identify the feelings that are being stated, you can acknowledge your understanding of these feelings. This can either be done by internalizing the feelings or asking questions until you truly understand how the feelings have affected the person. Acknowledging and internalizing what is being said will help you to begin to create sympathy on a deeper level, moving into empathy for the other person’s pain.
Once you have created a connection by internalizing the feelings and situation is when you can begin to combine empathy with sympathy. You will begin to truly understand the pain from the other person and can then acknowledge that you understand how they feel. This acknowledgement can then be used in order to begin to evaluate and examine what has happened, leading to more intimate and constructive processes of friendship.
Understanding and practicing empathy is an important skill if you want to create relationships at a deeper and more intimate level. While sympathy can work as an acknowledgment, it is also seen as a band-aid. It can cover up the wound, but does not necessarily help for the pain to go away. Empathy on the other hand, will provide a medicine for the other person to begin to heal from the emotional and mental wound that has occurred. The result will benefit both the other person in progressing towards a better understanding of what is occurring as well as the ability for you to support and help the other person into more constructive abilities for moving past the problem. True and sincere connections in any relationship begin with abilities to practice empathy, while providing constructive solutions.