Thursday, July 23, 2015

Empathy vs Sympathy

I started to jot down notes on the outline of this video, but it grew to be a transcript with slight modifications, because it is just that powerful. And so I'm putting it here, so I can refer back to it in the future.
What is empathy, and why is it so different than sympathy?
Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.
Four qualities of empathy:
- perspective taking (ability to take perspective of other person, or recognize their perspective as their truth)
- staying out of judgement (not easy, when you enjoy it as much as many of us do)
- recognizing emotion of other people
- communicating it.
To me, I always think this empathy as this sacred space, where someone's kind of in a deep hole and they shout out from the bottom, "I'm stuck, it's dark, I'm overwhelmed."
And then we look and we say, "Hey, calm down, I know what it's like down here. And you're not alone."
Sympathy is, "Oooh, it's bad, huh? Ummm, you want a sandwich?" *chew*
Empathy is a choice, and it's a vulnerable choice, because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.
Rarely, if ever, does an emphatic response begin with "at least".
And we do it all the time. We have someone who shared something with us that's incredibly painful, and we're trying to silverlining it. I don't think that's a verb, but I'm using it as one. But one of the things we do sometimes in the face of a very difficult conversation, is we try to make things better.
If I shared something with you that's very difficult, I'd rather you say "Huh. I don't even know what to say right now, I'm just so glad you told me."*
Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better.
What makes something better is connection.

*  Actually, whenever I share deeply personal stuff to others I don't even know what kind of responses I'm actually hoping to get. Mostly I'm just crossing fingers they won't stone me--and this invariably lead to their bewilderment at how little faith I have to their tolerance to me. My friends have certainly suffered a lot in befriending me.