The digital revolution that took over the world claims to have brought us closer through social media and ease of connectivity, while the fact is, more and more we are now living in bubbles. We lost our human touch from behind the screens, where the most effort we put into showing empathy and compassion is with a Facebook comment, a WhatsApp message, or a reaction on Instagram.
If you pay close enough attention you will observe that the narrative being pushed is built on isolation. ‘Protect your energy’, ‘Stay away from negativity and negative people’, ‘no one will save you but yourself’ more and more of things that have taught us to hide deeper in our bubbles and push away anything and anyone that may ‘disrupt our inner peace’. Then in the process, we forget what it means to show empathy, we’ve become so self-centered to even imagine ourselves in anyone else’s shoes. As if this bubble will keep us safe and unsusceptible to going through the same suffering any given day.
We have forgotten what it is like to show empathy or to be empathetic
Empathy is a higher level of kindness. It is not only understanding others’ experiences but being compassionate enough to put themselves in their shoe, sensing their own pain. Empathetic people are more likely to have deeper connections and meaningful relationships with people around them.
Empathy Comes in Different Shapes
Psychologist Daniel Goleman has identified the three categories of empathy as follows
Cognitive: Understanding and knowing what the other person is feeling and seeing things from their own perspective.
Emotional: The highest level of empathy where you understand others’ pain and suffering so deeply that you experience them physically, as if it is contagious.
Compassionate: A good balance between the cognitive and the emotional. You understand others’ pain and you are not overwhelmed with emotions so you are more able to help and take actions to support them.
We need more empathetic humans.
The world needs more empathy and while it is a natural part of our development, we sometimes encounter so many hardships, disappointments and traumas that we lose touch with our empathetic part. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot regain the capacity to become empathetic and understand why others feel the way they do. Here’s a good place to start:
1. Listen actively and attentively. Let them actually speak instead of waiting for them to finish so you can reply Listen to really understand what they are going through. Focus on what they are saying and want to tell you, verbally and non-verbally. This is a very important step for you to understand where they’re coming from.
2. Don’t make assumptions. Avoid assuming how they feel or what they think. Create enough space for them to say what they really feel without you putting so much input or judging.
3. Challenge your beliefs. We grow up adopting so many beliefs that are not necessarily right like certain ideas or notions that society forces upon us. Without a flexible and open mind to challenge your own beliefs, it will be hard for you to empathize with someone whose stance and beliefs are different from yours.
4. Put yourself in their shoes. You will never know how to become empathetic unless you try and put yourself in other people’s shoes. Every day, we come across so many things around us that can teach us to become empathetic. For instance, the homeless people we walk past them, we notice how unclean and messy they look, but we don’t take a moment to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine ourselves living this life.
5. Do a lot of volunteer work. Spending time at orphanages, nursing houses, and hospitals will teach you that there is a very harsh side to life and that maybe you were just fortunate enough not to have lived it. Seeing people living life differently than you, listening to their stories, and learning about their suffering will turn you into a compassionate and empathetic person.
Remember, nothing feels as good as the comfort of the bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. But we also need to get out of that bubble whenever we can and spend more time with people whose livelihoods and realities are different from ours. Try your mind to become more open and flexible and your heart to bigger, to know that sometimes all what others need can just be some empathy.