Thrive into the Weekend (4.4.14)

[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.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Priceless: The Empathetic Response

By Kate Bennett, PsyD

More often than not, people react to each other’s problems with well-intentioned but poorly-timed responses. From sympathy (“Oh, you poor thing”) to problem-solving (“You should try…”), people often miss a critical aspect of human connection: Empathy. In a society that values fast-paced and solution-focused lives, it is common to forget to slow down and listen, let alone feel. Sometimes, individuals’ own insecurities make empathetic responses intolerable. Brene Brown’s video on empathy provides a wonderful glimpse into the powerful human skill.

Think about the last time you shared a problem with a trusted individual. How did that person respond? Was the response congruent with your needs at the time? It is important to remember that you can share your preferences to help guide a support person. Starting with “I just need someone to listen” or “I really need some help figuring this out” will clue your confidant into your needs in that moment. Likewise, next time somebody reaches out to you for support, ask how you can help versus jump to your natural response. While uncomfortable and vulnerable at first, learning to share and receive empathy is an invaluable experience that every human is worthy of.