Empathy is one of 26 key competencies in the 4 Quadrant Model of Social + Emotional Intelligence®. Emotional Intelligence is about being aware of not only of yourself as well as others. Empathy is also about how to manage behaviours and relationships.
So what is empathy? Who has it and what are the signs of someone who doesn’t have it?
The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. The definition that I have on my own SEI profile is “- sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns; the ability to put yourself in another’s place and to take that perspective into account in your relationship with the other person.”
You would expect most therapists and coaches to have empathy with their clients as they listen for and observe both spoken and unspoken cues. In my humble opinion, if you come across a therapist or coach that lacks this quality….. find someone else. There are several signs that pinpoint that someone is lacking in this competency. Firstly, they will tend to stereotype others. Another clue is the inability to “read” people or their emotions and respond without considering how another might feel about that response. A third and telling sign is that they are often in conflict and don’t take any personal responsibility for creating these situations.
Whether you believe in unseen energies or not, humans are energy beings and the research undertaken by the HeartMath Institute has shown that the energy field generated by the heart can influence both our emotional responses and those of others nearby. Of course, you don’t have to be a therapist to have empathy, you may be a good listener – which is always a good start.
The good news is, that if someone is lacking in empathy, there are ways to develop this important emotional intelligence competency. It is possible to learn how to become more empathetic. For instance, to be a good listener, you first need to quiet the chatter in your mind. Too often people are forming responses before the speaker has finished. Above all, a regular meditation practice will help you to listen with a clear mind. Practice the power of the pause. This will help you to respond in a manner that shows sensitivity to the speaker. Learn to paraphrase what you think you have heard and most importantly withhold judgement as everyone has a different perspective.
Needless to say, if you feel that you need to develop this particular intelligence or any of the other 26 competencies for Emotional Intelligence, then schedule a Discovery Session or some coaching sessions.
Summer is just a few weeks away and the festive season is getting closer. Whether you look forward to it or dread it, the holiday season can be stressful for many reasons but it is possible to get through this time by following these steps.
- Remember to breathe…… establishing a routine for deep breathing prior to the holidays will result in this becoming second nature to you when you are in a stressful situation. A simple and effective breathing technique, done first thing in the morning and last thing at night, is to lie on your back with your hands over your belly and the fingers just touching each other. Take a deep breath into your belly area and your fingers should separate slightly and then exhale slowly allowing your belly to go flat. Do this ten times. If you find you lose count, then exert a slight pressure on each finger after every exhalation. Do it often enough and it will become a habit, then when there is a stressful situation you can trigger the relaxation by placing a hand on your abdomen and gently counting the breaths and exerting a slight pressure on the fingers.
- Stay in the moment…cultivate mindfulness as a strategy. When you are eating…..eat. Avoid distractions such as eating in front of the TV or whilst reading a newspaper. Be aware of the flavour, texture, smell, feel of the food and be especially aware of when you feel full. It’s OK to say “No” to second helpings or to leave some food on the plate. If there is a vast array of food, see this as an opportunity to create a small “tasting plate” and again be aware of the presentation, texture, flavours, smell of the food and whether it is a “friend or foe” to your body. Be curious about the preparation, the combination of flavours or where the food originated from. Listen to a hypnosis CD so that your subconscious mind can help you to make the right decisions about food choices when in social situations.
- Give within your means….. this applies not only to presents, but to your time and also what you are giving to yourself in the way of “treats”. If you love to bake, then do so and give away your creations to family and friends. If you are giving your time, make sure that you leave enough for yourself to enjoy the occasion and remember that it is OK to say “No” to demands on your time and energy. Visualize a bubble around you that allows loving thoughts in and blocks any negative vibrations. If you are intending on giving yourself a “treat”, make it a massage instead of a meringue or a pedicure instead of a pie….
- Stick to routines and structure as much as possible…. Have a plan. Most holiday stress comes about from that last minute rush to make everything perfect. Set goals that are realistic. Map out whether there are any obstacles to achieving the goals and work out the best way forward.
- Acknowledge your emotions….. the holiday season can be difficult if you have had a bereavement or change in family structure. Spend time reflecting on what traditions you would like to keep and what you would like to change. Have a plan, this may be that you decide to keep the celebrations the way they have always been. Plan B is always a good backup to default to if you realize as you head to a social situation that you need some time alone. It’s quite alright to plan to leave a celebration a little early if you feel overwhelmed. Rescue Remedy is a great help at times like this and if you see a homeopath, ask for some specific grief remedies to help you get by. Another useful therapy is Hypnotherapy, where you can bypass your conscious mind and use a variety of techniques to help you deal with either difficult people or situations. Smile….. even if you don’t feel like it…. the muscles in your face will send messages to your brain and release endorphins to reduce stress…. Laugh…. a good laugh is contagious and also reduces stress. ….. but above all – be authentic and acknowledge how you are feeling and share how you are feeling.
*article shared with Healthy Energy Summer 2015 Newsletter.