Empathy is a skill, not a natural gift

by Sarah on January 15, 2019

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. And, when on the receiving end of empathy, it creates the powerful experience of feeling felt. Feeling felt is one of the most healing and comforting exchanges that let us know that we belong and are not alone in our experiences.  

Empathy is a skill, not a natural gift. Some people do have a natural ability to pick up on the emotions of others more easily than the rest of us. But, taking that and then effectively communicating empathy requires additional skills. The good news is it can be cultivated and we’re all better for putting it into practice.

When I was first learning and developing my skill of empathy, it was really helpful for me to remember to focus on what emotions the other person might be experiencing instead of the clever word of wisdom I could say in response.

As I got curious, and listened for the emotions, I practiced saying something like this: “I don’t know what it’s like to go through what you are going through (fill in the blank), but I do know what it’s like to experience loss or disappointment or life not going the way I’d hoped and dreamed (fill in the blank with the emotion they are experiencing that you can relate to in your own life experience).”

All of us have experienced rage, powerlessness, grief and fear…, etc. People don’t want you to fix it nor do they want your first response to be advice. They want to know they’re not alone in it or rejected because of it. They want to feel felt.

Empathy isn’t sympathy, or feeling sorry for the other person, and it isn’t merging with their pain and taking on their burden, either. Like I said, it’s a skill! It’s not as easy as it seems.

If you’re interested in learning more about empathy, and developing your skills so you can create deeper connections, join me for the upcoming Daring Way™, a 12-week online course with personalized coaching from me. The Daring Way™ is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown, a leading shame, vulnerability and courage researcher. We go into detail about the attributes of empathy, as well as explore all the barriers to empathy we may not realize we are doing.

We will meet every week for 12 weeks, starting on September 3rd

WHERE: ZOOM virtual online meeting room

WHEN: Tuesdays from 12pm-1:30pm ET, September 3rd – November 19th

COST: 3-monthly payments of $179 or $499 when paid in full

HOW: Click here to grab your spot! Spaces are very limited.


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