How to Inspire Empathy in Even the Toughest of Hearts
As a hyper-sensitive person (in a good way), I sometimes struggle when I’m in intimate relationships with brainiacs, tough-guys, robots, and those who place feelings on the bottom shelf. If I’m not careful, I can become quite the whiny little needy weenie. Or an unreasonable, self-righteous dick. This article is for how to inspire empathy if you feel the same.
I’m hitting this one hard because I’m done with the pattern.
Now, instead of succumbing to a victim-mind, when I sense the other person is demonstrating an “under-empathy”, I educate them, doubling-down on compassion, with the hope that a tiny percentage will trickle into the heart of the other person. This method is working!
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might be one of those folks I’ve struggled with in the past. Or you might be an empath who bumps into the same walls and repeats the same responses. Either way, people who do not understand the value of empathy are challenging, right?
In order to explain how to inspire empathy, here’s an example of a dialogue that, formerly, would have crushed my spirit and rendered me lethargic and wing-clipped for weeks:
During a lovely hike with a friend:
Paul: I feel deeply connected to these beautiful trees. And there’s such light and sweetness in the air! Can you feel it?!
Brainiac-Robot: Um, nope. You hungry?
While there’s no harm in her response, my desire to be understood, and to have a mutual experience with the other person is what has most often tripped me up.
I used to feel justified in my hurt feelings because “isn’t being more open and loving and magical what it’s all about?” Um, no. It’s about respecting that the universe is complex and it has a wide variety of intertwined agendas and aspects in play.
I used to respond to these types of disconnects by saying things like, “Well, can’t you just try to have some empathy here? I mean, aren’t I worth it?” But that’s a form of manipulation and oppression, which is what weak, uncreative, controlling people conjure when they feel out of control and without power.
Let’s face it. It’s downright silly for me to expect someone else to have the exact same perspectives and experiences as me. Even if I feel disappointed, it’s unreasonable for me to expect another person to be empathic. Who knows what they’re going through. Who knows what value the universe places on their gifts.
My job is to have empathy for myself and creation, but that’s not everybody’s job. I just feel better when I’m being empathic. I feel better when I let my heart pour out to others. I’m more whole when I live this way, but this way of living is not meant for everyone.
Empathy is different from compassion. Empathy is embodying the other person’s feelings. Tasting them and finding ways to improve them. Compassion is being aware (and respectful) when someone is in pain. Compassion has better boundaries.
Okay, so then learning how to inspire empathy could help?
My new approach has inspired me to change my egoistic responses. For example, instead of expecting someone to feel the tree’s heartbeat like I do, now I say, “Hold my hand and let’s touch this tree together. Imagine the tree breathing and singing. Maybe we can both open our hearts together and share a moment of love with the tree. Just a tiny moment!”
This approach is effective because I’m empathizing with the other person rather than judging them or demanding that they “get me” upon every new-age whimper that comes out of my mouth. If they reject the offer, at least I arrived at empathy, rather than reaction.
Clearly, just because I feel connected to every green, fluffy pile of moss, every gnome spirit and light-orb, and the multitudes of crackling twigs in all the universes, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only conscious way to live. Other people might be more focused on the things that I tend to miss, for example, forgetting to lock the car or “HOLY CRAP! THAT’S A BEAR! RUN!”
After learning how to inspire empathy, a recent exchange:
Paul: I was working with a client this morning and I could feel their pain from early childhood trauma. It was overwhelming, yet it was such an honor. We walked through it together. Do you know what I mean?
Brain-Robot: Dude, I’m not set-up for this kinda conversation.
Paul: Cool. You hungry?
Maybe I’m evolving. Then again, let’s not jump to conclusions.