“Empathy is the most radical of human emotions.” [Gloria Steinem]

Explaining empathy and what it means in my life will be new to me; if you don’t already have some familiarity wtih the concept, I almost envy you. 

Empathy is defined as the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another through consciousness rather than physically.

Being an empath, on the other hand, gives me “the ability to read and understand people and be in-tune with or resonate with others.”  There is a deep sense of knowing for an empath, and the experience of deep emotions as well.  The world of an empath or highly sensitive person can be challenging.  It’s easy to lose yourself in the emotions or thoughts of other people.  This is because “empaths have a tendency to openly feel what is outside of them more so than what is inside of them.”

While being an empath has been extremely challenging for me at times, it has been vastly rewarding as well.  It enables me to forge deep bonds with people, to truly understand where someone is coming from, and to really see both sides of any disagreement that crosses my path.  While it’s largely agreed you are either born an empath or you aren’t, there are definitely tricks to increase your empathy — and that will help increase your understanding of the people around you, your world, and yourself.  My favorite tip on that page?  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Another excellent tool for increasing understanding is empathetic listening.  Tips for developing this skill can be found here and here.

[Note:  We are discussing the virtue of empathy in this post.  But if you’re like me, a highly empathetic person who experiences both the blessing and the curse of involuntarily being tuned in, check here for tips to help protect yourself.  My favorite on this list is don’t take on responsibilities that aren’t yours; that is also a sticking point for me in life.]

 

Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.
Alice Miller
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