Empathic Response

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviors. While American culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathic, research has uncovered the existence of "mirror neurons," which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them.-Psychology Today

After another mum told me she was so tired from waking up twice the night before, I responded by saying something like "if only I just woke up twice! that would be heavenly!"

After I told another mum that I'd been up every 30 minutes with my little one (who was cutting her molars), she responded that her baby had just cut a tooth and she didn't even notice. My heart sank. I was at the end of my rope exhausted, while those two didn't have any difficulty at all.

Neither scenario is best.

I chatted with yet another mum this week who feels disconnected from her birth group because they have all become so competitive. Everyone has a better sleeper, eater, walker, talker, etc. than she does. She doesn't feel supported.

And then there's toddlers. When "Dash, we eat blueberries, not knives" results in a fit of hysteria, I want to tell her she's ridiculous.

"Empathic Lines" by Javier Del Amo Varona via flickr

I've basically decided I don't have the time or energy to be judgemental or competitive. But I do need to make the space to respond with grace.

No matter how much harder or easier my situation seems at the moment or in the past, I'm trying to respond to the present of my companions. "I'm sorry your sleep was disrupted, that's always difficult" is a better response than immediately dishing out my own concerns, trying to one-up the sleep deprivation. "Dash, I understand that you are confused that you can grab one thing but not the other and you're upset that you can't do something that seems interesting, but I want you to be safe" would be the kind of response that requires me to see things from her perspective, change my tone and support her while still setting boundaries.

We are wired for empathy, but it's also a learned skill. I'm trying to seize the different levels of practice offered in my life.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment