As we look to be better friends, partners, and members of humanity most of us learn the vital difference between empathy and sympathy. Then we learn that we can have both empathetic joy and empathetic compassion, but you really take connection to another level when you learn that agreement and understanding are not required for empathy.
We All Have Different Experiences
When someone is brave and vulnerable enough to share a personal experience, listening with empathy should be the ultimate goal. Sometimes we have something we have experienced that helps us understand, but sometimes we have nothing. For example, if you have never experienced sexism, racism, or homophobia. However, understanding is not required to empathize. Where we get in trouble is when we think things like, “That doesn’t sound so bad.” Or “I don’t think that would bother me. But, it isn’t about you.
We All View The World Differently
If you have siblings, consider how there are memories from your childhood that you view or respond to differently. If you don’t have siblings think of other group experiences where there are several people who respond differently to an event or series of events. No one is right and no one is wrong, we just view the world differently—which is our human right.
If you find yourself struggling a bit with empathy, try mirroring. This is the process of repeating back or summarizing more than just the words shared with you, but also (and most importantly) with the same energy and emotion. This will help the person sharing with you to feel validated.