Empathy is something we think about when talking to someone who is facing extreme hardship. They just lost their job. Their spouse just died. They were just diagnosed with a severe illness. When in these situations, we are told to have empathy for what the other person is struggling though at the time.
Empathy is not often associated with normal conversations. We don’t think about being empathetic when talking to others. Yet we should. It is a key component of both listening effectively and in building relationships.
Being empathetic during convesations gives you the opportunity and permssion within you to acknowledge that a different point of view or perspective than yours can exist. This is very important and difficult for us to do many times.
Once we begin listening with empathy, our intent is to see more of the world that the other person sees. This gives us the opportunity to be curious, ask more questions, and discover the logic behind the words we hear. By listening in this manner, our mind becomes more active and open to possibilities.
By understanding more about the other person, we can now begin to build a relationship based on mutual respect. Our conversations are no longer only about only us. We move from a point of simply making declarations to each other (that we neither believe nor have interest in) to conversations that become additive and provide value to each person participating.
When conversations are filled with empathetic listening. new ideas, discoveries of commonalities, and something stronger begins to emerge over time. More than what each individual can conceive on their own. This is the fertile ground where relationship building occurs.
But you’re right. Both people need to participate in conversations with empathy for relationships to build and flourish. Having one person in a conversation that only wants to see their own point of view and clings tightly to their own beliefs will never lead to the energy and life that is given to us when a relationship develops.
Listening with empathy, confirms to the other person, that we too are not perfect. That our perspective might be flawed. That we are open to learning something from the other person that will help adjust our thinking to lead to a stronger and better mutual “tomorrow”.
While it sounds like I am alluding to a romantic relationship, what I write about applies to a professional relationship, and all of the relationships (including friends and family) that we develop throughout our life with people. No titles needed. No formalities needed.
For conversations are everywhere with many opportunities to practice.