Table of contents:
- Empathy is the ability that allows us to get used to the inner world of another person. This ability is extremely useful! For example, strong and long-term close relationships are impossible without her. Can empathy be improved?
- How to improve empathy
- 1. Selective, partial perception
- 2. Unconscious self-comparison
- 3. Condemnation
- 4. Desire to help
Video: 4 Ways To Improve Empathy - Self-development, Society
2023 Author: Oswald Adamson | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 20:18
Empathy is the ability that allows us to get used to the inner world of another person. This ability is extremely useful! For example, strong and long-term close relationships are impossible without her. Can empathy be improved?
One of the philosophers formulated the "paradox of love": when we fall in love with another person, then how do we know that we really love this person, and not our own feelings towards him? It sounds a bit clever, but I think everyone who has ever been truly in love has idealized a loved one. We perceive those whom we love through rose-colored glasses, attributing to them advantages that are not always in reality, and do not notice very real shortcomings.
But if we ourselves come up with a bright image of a loved one, then how can we be convinced of her / his reciprocal feeling? Usually we say: "Well, I feel that she / he loves me too!" But what does "feel" mean? How exactly does this happen? After all, someone else's soul is dark, and it will not be possible to look directly into the head of a loved one.
Empathy is a feeling, a kind of our feeling about the feelings of a partner
This ability is complex, it is based on several systems. For example, at the neurophysiological level, mirror neurons are responsible for empathy. At the perceptual level (i.e. at the level of perception), body language is responsible. According to one theory, we unwittingly copy the facial expression, posture and gestures of the interlocutor, making similar micromovements. Thanks to these micromovements, we get a slightly pale, but generally accurate copy of the emotional state of the interlocutor.
The highest form of empathy is considered cognitive (cognitive), when we not only more or less accurately read other people's emotions, but also understand the internal context associated with them. Emotions are always associated with deep values, motives, goals, ideas about oneself. Every emotion has a cause in the past; in each state we expect some kind of future consequences.
Genuine empathy works "in depth" - we not only notice how a loved one, for example, smiled, but also understand the shade of this smile (kind, grateful, malicious, supportive). In addition, we understand why a loved one smiles so in this particular situation; what is expected of us if his smile is addressed to us. This understanding breeds trust. That is why most do not bother with the "paradox of love", but really feel love from a loved one.
How to improve empathy
But what can get in the way of deep empathy? Here are four main barriers to overcome that can dramatically improve empathy and relationships with loved ones.
1. Selective, partial perception
If empathy is based mainly on body language, then we often draw conclusions about the state of the interlocutor only on the basis of 1-2 of the most noticeable bodily signs. For example, we notice that the interlocutor is smiling, and we conclude that he is in a good mood. At the same time, we can ignore that he has frowned eyebrows, he looks to the side, shakes his foot or drum his fingers on the table.
You don't need to be a super psychologist to understand that with the addition of the above details, a smile no longer seems so positive. Rather, it is a disturbing smile associated with anxiety, insecurity, discomfort. negative experiences.
If you want to improve empathy, then perceive the body language of the interlocutor as a whole picture, as a complex of related signs
At the same time, it is not at all necessary to study what a specific bodily sign or their symptom complex can express. It is enough just to listen to your own state: how do you emotionally resonate, what emotion do you have in response to the body language of the interlocutor?
2. Unconscious self-comparison
We are so arranged that we understand other people through the prism of our own everyday experience. If we have any set of the most typical for us frequently experienced emotions, then these are the emotions we will first of all find in others.
But we do not just project our own mood / state onto others. We also conjecture the reasons for this state and confidently predict what a person can do in such a state
And here we also think "to the extent of our depravity", attributing to others such reactions and actions that are most likely within the framework of our model of the world.
As you can imagine, an unconscious comparison (projection of our states and attribution of the most probable, from our point of view, behavioral causes and effects) may have nothing to do with what the other person feels.
If you want to improve empathy, then perceive the other person as an alien - a strange creature whose emotions and life experience have nothing to do with your experience and feelings
An alien can be understood, but for this it is necessary to study him, deliberately putting forward and testing hypotheses about what he actually feels, what was the cause of his condition. This kind of study is a meaningful process, not at all like an unconscious assessment.
Our impression of another person very often includes an automatic moral judgment. This is a quick unconscious judgment: at first we do not like a person (or his condition), and in order to justify this antipathy, our brain quickly finds justification for this feeling.
As a rule, the excuse is that a person is ranked among some category of "bad", "wrong" people. But as soon as this happens, we lose the desire to delve deeply into his inner world.
A negative impression of a person blocks empathy towards them
How to overcome this barrier? Include critical thinking in relation to yourself. Just ask yourself questions.
- What is my assessment of this person as bad based on?
- What didn't I like about him?
- What is the real reason for my negative impression / attitude towards him?
It often happens that an unsympathetic person is not to blame for anything - we simply project onto him (see item 2) our bad mood, which could have been spoiled earlier in a completely different place.
4. Desire to help
This barrier is the opposite of the previous one. It so happens that a positive / “sweet” impression from another person so strongly affects us that there is a completely irrational desire to “adopt / adopt” him. The interlocutor reminds us of a weak and defenseless child, whom we want to save at all costs, help him in some way.
Why such compassion suddenly arises is difficult to explain. Psychoanalysts would say that this is how deep projection works, perhaps even archetypal.
The problem is that there is a category of people who "feed" on other people's empathy and compassion. Their vulnerability is just a role / mask that they manipulatively use when they need to use other people to achieve their goals
When faced with such people, empathy is too superficial. Instead of a deep understanding of the true state and motives of the interlocutor, we quickly switch to the desire to help the poor thing.
How to overcome this barrier? Separate empathic empathy and action. Even if it seems to us that the other person is bad and deserves compassion, it is important not to succumb to the first impulse and not to be led by pity. Simply because there is a great risk of becoming a victim of a manipulator or committing a stupid act that will not so much help the sufferer as aggravate his problems.
Therefore, inwardly slow down yourself; Take enough time first to understand the other person's feelings before making a rational decision to help.