Living on campus, we contact with others every day. Friendship and communications play important roles in determining who I am and the worth of my life. As a freshman to the university, the situations may be particularly serious for someone who has experience of relational trauma in the past.
Among the kinds of capacities needed, empathy, perspective taking and self-reflection have significant effects on our social interactions. There are series of essays explaining them, but here we just want to discuss the first one: empathy.
As an interaction skill, empathy is used in daily life unconsciously. It enables us to stand in other people’s shoes in order to understand their emotional feelings and then respond appropriately and convincingly.
However，according to the survey of our counseling center, we noticed that many students who have emotional distress lack this capacity to facilitate their social interactions and emotional bonds with others.
To develop empathy, we can do the followings:
Visualize yourself in others’ shoes. The best way to feel what others are feeling is to visualize yourself in his or her situation as immersive as possible.
Take notice of the surrounding, paying attention to who else is there, time of the day, feelings of others, and physical pain he or she may be suffering from. Imagine how you come across to him or her, not how you actually feel but what you actually convey to the feelings that are contradictory. For example, your boyfriend forgot your birthday party, but still had bought you a gift. At that time, you may feel hurt, angry, and somewhat happy and comfort as well.
Background is the key. Understanding other people’s feelings involve having at least a rough sense of his or her frame of mind at the time. There are a few questions you might want to consider:
Has he/she ever experienced similar situations in the past？
What are the fears, doubts, hopes, or expectations he or she might have to the situation?
What else happened in his or her life at the time?
How's he/she been ever since?
How might other relationships impact his or her responses？
Convey your insights thoughtfully. Having insights into another person’s feelings matters only if we can convey our understanding convincingly and compassionately.
Be as descriptive as possible.
The more the other person realizes you’ve put thoughts and efforts into appreciating his or her point of view, the more impact your communications with empathy will have.
All in all, practice makes perfect. To develop empathy, we should practice more in a variety of situations and with numerous people. Hope it can help you have satisfying relationships and live a happy life.