Willing To Be

Other Than Mother ¶ April 21

Posted by Sandra Clifton on Jan 13, 2014 in Emotional Literacy |

When I share with others that I’m a certified coach in Social & Emotional Literacy, people often ask, “Can you teach empathy?”  It’s a great question, and I believe that the answer is YES.  Absolutely.  And there is even more research out there every day to help us in this effort.  But often (as I’ve said many times before–) “less is more.”  What do I mean by that?  Well, this past Friday I was lucky enough to attend a webinar sponsored by ICF that featured Dr. Helen Riess, Director of Empathy and Relational Science at the University of Massachusetts.  She shared about “The Power of Empathy,” and one of her most poignant points was that taking care of yourself is one of the MOST important things you can do to help feeling attuned to others.

Dr. Riess offered some circumstances that make empathy more of a struggle for most of us, and I think it’s extremely helpful to see this list:

…when we’re in a rush,

…when we lose our curiosity about a person,

…when we don’t know what to say,

…when we are not fully informed about a person’s specific situation,

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…when someone feels helpless,

…when a person criticizes or tries to manipulate us,

…and especially when we’re exhausted and/or burned out.

Dr. Riess emphasized that “...it’s impossible to be empathetic on an empty tank.”  I think we’re often our own biggest critic, so it’s crucial to extend that oxygen mask to ourselves first, in the journey of feeling the shoes of another.  In fact, I would urge each of us to be mindful of taking consistent steps of self-care to prevent an emotional or physical energy crisis in the first place.

In the meantime, here’s some encouragement to take out time each day to savor the small things…and by doing so, you just might be able to offer exactly what the person next to you needs the most~


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