I have a confession to make. I’m not the most empathetic person in the world. I know I should be more empathetic and I’m not.
There are times I’m empathetic, and even during those times I know I don’t come across as being very empathetic. I also know this is a problem I have in working with other people. I’m often seen as arrogant and not caring. That’s an issue for me when I'm seen as not being empathetic, even though I think I am.
Now, I want to spend a few minutes writing about why empathy is important and lessons I’ve learned from not being empathetic enough.
When you’re empathetic, you’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
For some, this is easier than for others. I often have a hard time putting myself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not that I don’t care, I don’t seem to have that gene wandering around my body.
If you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, there’s a good chance that other person will appreciate your efforts. You’ll be seen as supportive. This can lead to deep relationships with others that helps you just as much, if not more, than the person you’re being empathetic towards.
Empathy means that you care about other people.
By definition, if you’re empathetic, you are caring about other people. Empathy is an outwards activity. It’s not something that directly benefits you.
In my experience, the very best leaders are empathetic. They know that you care about them and they take a little extra time to make you feel that you’re important. Successful leaders often have this ability, and it shows in how they lead.
There are very successful people in the world who don’t appear to care about others much. If you are one of them, to be successful you must be much better than the average bear at what you do.
When you’re empathetic, you’re relatable.
I’ve noticed that people who are highly empathetic are very relatable to as humans. They often are the type of people who get high scores when someone asks who would you like to have a beer with?
If the work that you do requires you to get along with others, then having a large dose of empathetic behavior is likely an important trait. If you aren’t naturally able to be empathetic like me, then it’s important to get to where you can appreciate what others are going through. For me, this is difficult, especially when what someone needs empathy about I’m not interested in or don’t think it’s a problem.
Empathy is not a rational activity.
If you are on the rational side of the ledger, being empathetic can be a very difficult activity. I’ve noticed that when one is being empathetic, often they don’t care whether the person they’re being with is being rational or not.
Empathy and being rational just don’t seem to go well together all the time. Sometimes it is, and sometimes being rational will keep you from being empathetic.
For me, being empathetic is being with another human, whether it makes sense. It doesn’t mean that you agree with what feelings another has; it means that you understand what they’re feeling. If you can do that, then I believe you’re being empathetic.
If you’re a fatalist like me, empathy might be a big difficult for you.
One of my favorite sayings is, “It is what it is.” This means that whatever happens is what happens. I will not worry too much about things I can’t control. If it’s something terrible, I’ve had the good fortune to get past all of it so far.
When I was growing up, I was never allowed to wallow in feeling sorry for myself. That might be where my lack of empathy for others comes from. I know that I have to work hard to be empathetic and it appears to me that for others there is no effort at all.
I’m curious about what your thoughts about empathy are? Do you naturally come to being empathetic towards others or like me, do you have to work at it? Why don’t you let me know in the comments below?