Empathy is an interesting concept and word. It has been around for over 100 years and was translated from German to English. It has morphed from describing a feeling towards art, to primarily being focused towards another human being. I find there are some different approaches to putting this concept to work in your life. Sueng Chan Lim talks extensively about empathy on his website www.realizingempathy.com.
Suen Chan Lim talks also describes what Empathy is not; a place where you feel sorry for someone, or having to be nice or kind, or sit there and be overwhelmed by what someone is sharing. I have personally realized empathy by waking up to the emotions behind the words shared. I experience this as noticing or “seeing” what someone else is going through or what is causing them pain. Sometimes I might understand, or relate to what they are experiencing from their point of view. Other times, I might not understand, but I try to understand.
An exercise in empathy that helps me is trying to think about how I would feel if I was in their shoes going through what they have experienced. The most important piece I have found is to actively listen and show care, allowing the other person to be honest and not feel like I am judging them or telling them they shouldn’t feeling the way they do. The profound Brene Brown has a YouTube video called the Power of Empathy, which is extremely insightful in putting empathy into simple words and using a visual to piece it together. Brown talks about how we use the “at least” method often to talk about people’s pain. Check it out: