[Thrive into the Weekend: A blog series designed to empower athletes to thrive in life and sport by encouraging intentional action]
By Kate Bennett, PsyD
Alfred Adler’s famous quote “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another” is a wonderful description of empathy. Look in the dictionary and you will find a much more complex definition; however, empathy is (simply put) standing in another person’s shoes for a moment in time. It is the idea of stepping outside of your own being to honor somebody else’s experience.
To practice empathy:
Listen to the other person’s words. What is s/he saying? Are you hearing the actual words or jumping to conclusions about how to solve the problem, identifying a situation that is worse, or recalling a memory that is similar? Stop. Listen to the individual’s words…what is that person saying? What is the tone of his/her voice? Is the person speaking so softly that you can barely hear?
Watch the person’s body language. Does the individual look tense, rigid, or scared? Is s/he on the verge of tears? How does your body language reflect what you are seeing and hearing?
Wonder what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, with his/her story, holding those emotions. Open your heart to authentically experiencing the individual’s feelings. Allow yourself to feel the pain or joy without letting your own story paint the experience another color. Accept the person’s emotions in the moment-Just let them be without trying to make them other than they already are.
Thrive into the Weekend by practicing empathy. Hold and honor the experience knowing that you are both giving and receiving the gift of authenticity.