Stepping outside ourselves seems a difficult task in a world increasingly bent on everyone accruing the maximum number of personal connections. Under such a constant lens, empathy toward others gives way to spectacle so that we get likes, clicks, views, or swipes; all self-celebrating attitudes that bleed from the “social” world to real life.
We forget that we are not the center of all, our thoughts are not the established reality, and nor are we exempt from scraping our knees from time to time on Life’s rocky moral roads.
If our lives have been affected so drastically by our technological, social times, can we get a bit of silence back wherein we actually hear what someone says rather than respond to them as if they are the meme of the day?
Emphatically and undeniably yes.
We can change.
We can transform.
And it starts with love…
Empathy In Your Love Life
1) Let’s say you’re in a relationship (as many of us are). This relationship may be new or it may be long-standing. Either way, you want it to flower rather than become a vacant lot full of nettles. Being open to the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others is water to this land. Increasing your empathy will make you more attentive, which means you’ll root out problems before they become deeply embedded issues. Your garden grows.
2) It will aid in communication, which increases intimacy, which increases intimacy. Nudge nudge wink wink. If increased frequency in experiencing your lover’s nibbly bits isn’t worth a bit of transformation, we can close up shop and see what’s on telly now.
3) You will likely find yourself on the receiving end of a lot more hugs. Hugs have been proven to improve the immune system by reducing stress. Hugs increase one’s sense of social support and lessen the sense of isolation a me-driven world paradoxically creates. And hugs make two people who have never met before feel an instant connection. Imagine what it adds between lovers!
4) Empathy helps one to prioritize. Unimportant things that used to be huge drains (but were first in line on the List Of Things That Define Me) begin to drop back, fade away, and – gods willing – fall off. Why? Because empathy also increases intuition, and you quickly realize that problematic things you thought were of extreme importance… aren’t.
Some of us hear the words “family reunion” and immediately think “World War III.” If romantic relationships can comfortably exist in fields of nettles, families can be scorched-earth fields of volcanic rock yielding prickle berries that dear Aunt Meg unfailingly attempts to bake into pie.
Our families are often the least empathic environs we maintain, largely because we’re taught we’re supposed to put up with whatever family dishes out. (I’m more of the “Blood may be thicker than water, but you’ll likely bleed out before dying of thirst” inclination.)
5) If being judgmental is accepted as an inescapable family dynamic – even though it isn’t – imagine the differences if everyone in the family felt heard, seen, and respected. Imagine increasing love, care, and consideration inside the family unit. Learning what empathy is and why it’s important will do this. It’s so strange that our first introduction to social units is one that celebrates a lack of empathy.
Caring means strengthening and forming real bonds beyond mere DNA!
We’ve all seen the people who make it a point to hate everything about their jobs. This isn’t to say there aren’t jobs that are complete soul-sucks. See: 90% of the industrialized world. But those dour, bitterly encased people very rarely seem to move forward, lateral, up or down: they stay exactly where they are.
Promotions and growth occur everywhere but under their feet. (Not to say that jerks don’t prosper, because, again, 90% of the industrialized world, but an empathic heart defines prosperity with much more beneficially-lasting criteria than simply status and wealth.)
6) Increased empathy, put bluntly, will make it seem like you give a damn about more than your own personal prosperity. Being seen as a team player who cares about the success of the greater whole (i.e. those around you) will open many doors, likely doors that lead you away from company A into an entirely new realm with company B!
7) And as possibilities spring up, one’s own interests increase… which opens even more possibilities! Letters of recommendation become less “Yes, she worked here” and more “It was a joy having her here!”
Joy begets joy. That bears repeating from now till the final cinder falls from the last star’s sooty tip. Might even beget that new and better job you never knew was in store for you.
8) The best way to transform acquaintance-ships into friendships is to actually be friendly. To actually be friendly, you have to care about more than yourself. You have to care about how other people feel regarding what you do and say.
That one friend who everyone can talk to is the glue to so many social interactions, from parties to reunions to quiet dinners to church functions, because they operate from a sense of outward-flowing love rather than an inward stream of See me!
Increased empathy means people want to be around you; they want to include you in the most joyous parts of their lives because, quite simply, what does joy do? (See above.)
Your Own Sense Of Meaning
9) Finally, increasing your empathy transforms y-o-u. Not the external benefits, which are wondrous, but the solitary meat engine that travels around on this gigantic, verdant rock winging its way through outer space like the proverbial bat out of hell. Every benefit listed so far becomes a benefit inside little old you.
10) Increased empathy opens you to your own sense of interconnectedness. You realize that, no matter what, you’re not alone. Someone out there feels for you. You’re precious, you’re needed, and there are those ready and willing at a moment’s notice to ease any burden that befalls you until you are able to get back on your feet. In a world of increased empathy, you matter. You matter a lot.
This leads you to realize that people, given the chance to be awesome, will be awesome. Minus the noise and walls we’re told are “modern life” (much in the same way we’re told blood is thicker than… you get the drift), our interactions with one another become amazingly life-affirming things. People want to celebrate you as much as you should want to celebrate them.
We transform our lives in chunks big and small, with often good or ill being seen as coin tosses, when the truth is transformation is predictable: what goes in is what comes out. To build muscle mass, we add weights. To increase the concern we have for one another, we need to surround ourselves with true consideration, a sense of connectedness, and the willingness to allow our minds and hearts to bloom in a variety of places.
Life then goes from being the isolated teapot constantly venting steam to the watering can offering droplets akin to cool, welcome rain.
A better, more empathic world is not impossible, and the benefits are amazing.