Episode 50: The Power of Empathy

The art of empathy is more than just a concept; it’s a practice that, when applied to our relationships, can transform the way we support our loved ones. We discuss the four attributes of empathy and how to implement them, particularly in moments of distress, whether it’s a child feeling rejected or a partner misunderstood. Listen in to learn more about empathy and how to use this tool to increase or connection and strengthen our relationships.

What you will learn on this episode:

– How individual stress responses lead to disconnection and how empathy can bridge from judgment to understanding.

– The significance of empathy in forming connections and improving wellness, relationships, communication, and healing.

– The differences between sympathy, empathy, and compassion, with personal stories to illustrate cognitive, affective, and somatic facets of empathy.

– The four attributes of empathy identified by Teresa Wiseman: perspective-taking, staying non-judgmental, recognizing emotions, and communicating understanding.

– The importance of being present and truly listening in moments of distress without immediately trying to fix problems.

– How empathy can transform our approach to supporting loved ones, particularly in leadership parenting.


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Hello there, friends, I’ve been thinking about you so much. It’s funny I can’t see you at all, but when I’m preparing my notes for each episode, I have this picture of you in my mind, and it’s really kind of interesting because we have so many different listeners of differing ages and circumstances. But when I’m thinking of you, I’m thinking of your hearts, those internal places we have within us that feel through life, those internal places we have within us that feel through life, and whenever I’m meeting with somebody new, it’s always so interesting to get the details of her life, and those, of course, are always different and unique, never exactly the same as someone else’s and I’m very interested in those details. Of course they matter, but those aren’t the things I’m counting on to connect with her. What I’m counting on is that heart place where I can relate to her, even if she’s completely different than I am. There’s something within each of us that can connect us, and this is the beginning of the healing work that I’ll do together with my client, but also in our non-therapy lives. This is the core of our connection with others, and one thing I’ve learned, both professionally and personally, is that connection is the power tool that makes or breaks our wellness, our relationships, our communication and, ultimately, our healing. Now we have a lot of episodes on connection, so let me summarize here. 


Our brain and body have an automated system that operates beneath our conscious decision making, which means your nervous system is constantly working to keep you safe from threat. It’s always scanning for danger, labeling and cataloging danger cues to avoid in the future, and its job is to help you fight or run from danger when it’s presented, or if it’s too overwhelming to shut down and freeze. In other words, your nervous system is striving to stabilize you when you feel threatened. And the way that I define threat is a disconnect from safety in real time, but also a disconnect from the confidence that you’re safe or that you might be unsafe in the future. And safe is a funny word because, to you and me, as we’re talking about safety, we usually have a list of things that we see as safe or not, like a fire, a big animal chasing us, a car accident falling off a cliff, kids playing with knives or getting into medicine. I think we’d all agree that these things aren’t considered to be safe. 


But your brain also reacts to other things that aren’t as obvious. When traffic makes us late or your child’s tantrum is happening or your spouse rolls their eyes, you know our brains also start to see those things as not being safe. You know our brains also start to see those things as not being safe. Not being invited to a friend’s birthday for lunch or being, you know, looking at your home, comparing it to an Instagram post. All of those things can trigger that button in the brain that says not safe and it turns on your threat system, it can be easy to judge what we think is worthy of that alarm button getting pushed right. 


Like I can look at someone who just lost their job or got a cancer diagnosis, or their spouse just asked for a divorce and I can say, yeah, that’s hard, that’s scary, and I can see why that might make you feel all those things in your body. And I could also look at someone who is anxious about flying on an airplane or being upset at having a lot of laundry to do or your child’s melting down because they didn’t get to watch another show, and I’m like that’s probably not so dangerous. What the heck. That makes no sense to me why you would get upset about that. If I could ask each one of you what turns on your fight or flight or freeze response in your body, body would probably have no two lists, be exactly the same, because for your history, your neural sensitivity, your experiences and even your level of awareness and skill set to work with your thoughts, it’s going to be unique for each and every one of you. 


Once again, I’m always looking for that thread that connects us all right, and that thread is this you have a nervous system that perceives disconnection in many different scenarios and when that happens, you will feel stress in your body and your emotions. Once I accepted this, a funny thing happened the judgment about whether anything was worth an upset or a tantrum or a fear or anything a person might be going through well, it kind of disappeared, or at least I became more flexible about it, because when you start to see these things, you get to this place where you can sidestep the judgment of whether it should be happening and just start to see that it is happening and hopefully, with this knowledge and education, you will understand how it is happening in the body, both in our own bodies and in others. And this can sometimes get you to understand why it’s happening, which means you can kind of get it. And when I say get it, it means I’m able to put myself in their shoes a little bit. I’m able to see it from where they’re seeing it and feeling it. That little two-year-old that you have that’s absolutely melting down over the broken banana in two pieces instead of one piece, like they wanted it. You can understand. Number one, something’s triggered for them. They’re feeling a threat. Number two, it’s making their nervous system respond. And number three. They’re having a unique and important experience to them and if we can just get those things, just get it in quotation marks and maybe even stay with them in it so they feel our connection, we will be helping them. We will be literally helping them to soothe their nervous system and literally restore safety. 


This is such a scientific way of describing it, and I wanted to do that because I want to approach our subject today with this foundation that can help us get out of judgment so we can better connect to others. And our topic today is how to be with others, how to be connected to them when they are in emotion. And the word that you will hear a lot to describe this is empathy. We hear a lot about the importance of having empathy and I get a ton of questions about it. I know I’m supposed to have empathy, but I’m not really quite sure what it is and how to use it. I think I’m being empathic, but it just doesn’t seem to be working. 


And what’s the difference between sympathy and empathy? And you know, it makes sense that we don’t really have a clear understanding of what all of this is and means, because even in the research it’s a little murky, as I was preparing for this episode, I looked up some definitions, kind of did a quick research and, honestly, I found some definitions that actually conflicted with each other. Some said sympathy is better than empathy, and some said that empathy is the gold standard, but they described it like sympathy. And some say that too much of empathy can really hurt a person or hurt you. So we’re getting mixed messages and I’m not sure we really understand what these terms mean, why they matter and how to develop them in our lives, develop them in our lives. So for me, I kind of like to boil it down and try to simplify it, because if you can understand it, you’ll be so much more likely to use empathy to strengthen your relationships. 


And empathy is one of the strongest skills we have to bring us closer to people In marriage. Honestly, it’s like super glue. It’s what really helps us feel that connection and that safety with our partner. John Gottman describes empathy as mirroring a partner’s feelings in a way that lets them know that their feelings are understood and shared. He cites it as the key to attunement with our spouse with our spouse and in parenting, it’s so essential to be able to understand our children’s feelings and stay with them as they feel those feelings, and we talk about this a lot as our greatest parenting tool, because when we use empathy with our children, we step out of that place where we’re reacting to what they’re feeling and doing and instead slow down and move toward them and try to really understand what they’re feeling and maybe even when they don’t understand what they’re feeling, try to get in their shoes and see it from their perspective. It totally changes how we feel about them and it honestly enables them to feel our connection with them, which is the fundamental goal in our parenting to stay attached with our children so they feel that security as they grow. So understanding empathy is really really important. 


A really simple way to define this is to be emotionally aware of what someone is going through. We use a lot of words to describe this emotional awareness. You’ll hear words like sympathy, empathy and compassion, and I think we interchange those words a lot and what that means is that we’re trying to put a label or a description around this emotional awareness, and I thought it might be helpful to talk through these terms a little bit to help us understand it all better. So let’s start with sympathy. Sympathy is feeling upset or sadness for someone else due to their situation or their experience. So when you have sympathy, it means you can understand what the person is feeling. It allows you to show some kind of appreciation for them feeling something hard particularly, and even though you might not feel the same sadness, you might understand why someone is feeling that sadness. Say like if they have a friend or an animal pet that they love passes away. And when you express your sympathy you might say I see you and I’m sending you a message of support and care. Okay, that would be sympathy. 


It’s kind of like layer one, layer two empathy. It goes beyond sympathy. It’s not just feeling bad for someone, but stepping toward them to try to understand exactly how they are feeling. This involves being able to see things from their point of view, maybe even imagining yourself in their situation and how that would feel to you. Essentially, it’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, seeing things from their perspective and then allowing yourself to have those similar feelings with them. And there are actually several types of empathy. There’s cognitive empathy, where you’re able to understand another person’s mental state and what they might be thinking or feeling in a situation, and it’s even deeper than the sympathy you don’t just feel bad for them. You understand it’s hard but you’re stepping in and you’re kind of cognitively able to see the deep kind of feelings, the different parts of what they might be going through. That’s cognitive empathy. So you might have a child that comes home and you find out they didn’t make the dance team or they didn’t get that position or that part in the play or something that they’re very disappointed about. If you have cognitive empathy, you understand how that might be hard for them, because when people work hard, and especially watching your child prepare, you kind of consciously go yeah, I could totally see this would be really hard on them. 



The next layer of empathy kind of you know one more deeper is affective empathy and this involves the ability to understand and actually share that emotion with them or feel it with them, even though the thing isn’t happening exactly to you. So you might do something that helps you imagine what it is that it might feel like, what it felt like for you when you tried out for a team and you didn’t make it, and you’re starting to kind of mirror, where you’re looking at the pain your child is going through. You can kind of feel it too and you’ll hear that in our language. Oh, I just feel for them. I just feel it. I can imagine what that feels like. I remember what it was like for me, even if it wasn’t the exact situation. I’m putting myself into some other similar situation. That is kind of like that, and I’m feeling it with them, even though it isn’t happening to you, you. 



And then the third kind of empathy is called somatic empathy and that involves having that physical reaction in response to what someone else is experiencing. The most pure definition of it would be a physical reaction to somebody else’s physical experience, like if you see someone slam their fingers in the door and then if you notice that your own hand kind of starts to ache, or you see someone getting really, really embarrassed and you notice that you start to get flushed and maybe a little bit of blushing happens to you. That’s where you’re having a physical response in your body, in kind of empathic response to someone else’s physical response in their body, and I think you’ll start to see how these overlap a little bit right. So having cognitive empathy means that you’re starting to put yourself in the other person’s shoes cognitively and trying. You know, sometimes I call that layer one, because you look at somebody and you’re like, oh man, I’m starting to see that this could be really hard for them. I wonder what? And you’re still kind of up in your head, right. I wonder what they’re feeling. And if you want to move closer to them, you might even ask questions like I wonder what that would feel like for me if I were in that situation, or I remember what that was like for me. You’re still all kind of up in your head about it and you know that you’ve dropped down into that affective empathy. 



When you start to feel the emotion, when you actually start to feel it in your own body, it’s no longer just this cognitive awareness, this understanding that’s in your mind. You start to kind of have that emotion. And then if you have anything that shows up in your body, around it, like you know an achiness or that pit in your stomach, or you know that tightness in your chest, or if they’re hurting physically and you start to have you know and here’s where it gets confusing. You know we call them sympathy pains, right, but really a better way to say it is they’re empathy pains. I’m actually feeling what you feel and I was talking to someone the other day who said that their mom and dad, when their mom was pregnant, their dad would get all of the pregnancy symptoms, would get the nausea, would get the sore back, would get the insomnia, and which I thought was really interesting, because what she was describing, you know, especially back then she was a little bit older and so her parents had no idea about. 



I don’t even think they talked about empathy back then. You know, back then she was a little bit older and so her parents had no idea about I don’t even think they talked about empathy back then, you know, decades ago. But what she was describing was somatic empathy and I remember I kind of laughed, I said, well, that’s kind of not fair because you know, if he’s just as sick as she is, then that kind of makes it hard. They’re both down right instead of him being okay to be able to help her out and kind of shield her and help her and take care of her. And we laughed about that, how it really wasn’t very fair. But it also was something that she was praising about her father, that he had this sensitivity, that he was so attuned to his wife that he was feeling what she felt. 



Now we’re going to talk in a little bit about the negatives to empathy. That’s probably one of them when we’ve got such a big empathic response to someone that it’s shutting us down, that it’s making it hard for us to function because we’re feeling the pain of someone else. That is actually one of the downsides of being empathic. Okay, we have sympathy that. We talked about empathy, which has three parts cognitive empathy, affective empathy and somatic empathy. 



Finally, let’s talk about compassion. Compassion is, I think, most simply defined as having this awareness of someone in pain and having a desire to relieve their suffering in some way. So compassion takes empathy and sympathy to a much deeper level. When you have compassion, you’re going to recognize that somebody is in pain. So you could say that we’re using sympathy and you may actually feel the pain of another person in one or all three of those kinds of empathy and then that inspires you or motivates you to want to do something to help that person. So I love to look at all of these different options once again, as the goal is being in being connected and feeling like we’ve got that unity and that support with the people around us, definitely starting with the people closest to us, but also to people in the world. 



So bottom line is, our bodies and brains don’t do well alone or in isolation. What we need is that connection, someone to stay with us while we’re going through hard things and notice I didn’t say we need someone to make it better or make it go away or fix it or take it from us and feel it for us. Now, the reason why I pause here is because this tends to be some of the things that get in our way of being able to be empathic over long periods of time. Because you know and I think I’m guilty of this too Many times I think if I could take this from you and just feel it for you, especially for my kids, then you’d be free of it. And so let me do that, let me be so empathic that I’m going to take this and wear it. It’s going to be mine, and this isn’t helpful. It’s not helpful to us and it’s definitely not even helpful to the person we’re doing that for. 



We think we’re doing that for Connection is enough. I can’t stress that enough. We don’t have to take it from someone which, by the way, we really can’t do that. But it’s not even a great idea because it’s not what’s necessary. That’s part of the boundaries of being a separate person and having your own responsibility to feel your own feelings. 



And sometimes, when we go too empathic, we start to kind of feed into a dark place and get down with someone, or we start to get just as anxious as someone. And you know that saying you know, I’m only as happy as my saddest child. That has been my saying a lot, even though I know this. That’s what I’m working against, because I have such a desire to be united and connected with my kids that sometimes, if I’m not careful, I can get sucked into that black hole. They don’t want me there. 



I think it’s actually really disrespectful that we go into someone else’s space and even imagine that we could take it from them or feel it for them or feel it as much as they feel it. It’s not healthy. And yet I feel that gravitational pull many times and I know there are some of you out there that feel that same thing, because I have a caseload full of women. This is where either we’re not empathic enough or we’re over empathic and we have to fight against this gravitational pull to get sucked in to someone else’s feelings so deep that we can’t find our way out. So that’s not the goal. The goal is to just stay connected, and compassion actually is the secret in doing that, because once we can get in there and feel what somebody else is feeling imagine that feeling then we start thinking about how can I be of most help? And I’m telling you right now, the most help is just to stay with someone. 



When someone says I lost the baby, it’s not the time to make it better. What can you possibly say that would make it better? Have you ever had anybody say to you or even it’s come out of your mouth right Like it’s okay, or at least you have other children or you’ll probably get pregnant again, or any number of things? That our intention is to make someone feel better, not necessary. Our goal is to just be with them and say I hear how hard this is and I can feel how hard it is, and compassion starts to move us in the direction of is there something that I can do? And that’s a different question than I’m going to choose. What I’m going to do, and it’s going to be to try to tell you these things to feel better, sometimes just saying I don’t think there is anything that I can do to make this better, but I want you to know that you’re not alone. When someone says that to me, it feels like I can breathe again. I know in my head you can’t make it better for me, but if I know that someone is sitting next to me and they see that it’s hard and they’re just willing to stay with me, it’s the best gift, it’s the kindest gift. It’s sometimes exactly what I need to feel like I can stabilize again and decide what I want to do from there. You know, as a therapist I do a lot of this and I’m constantly amazed by the power of sitting with someone just as they’re having their feelings. 



Sometimes I can get really stressed out, thinking about how little I can actually do to relieve people’s suffering. I mean I’m a fixer. I think that’s probably just my desire to help people feel better. I mean I’m a fixer. I think that’s probably just my desire to help people feel better. But if there’s a problem, I do, I want to fix it. I think that’s why I’ve studied so much and I’ve come up with different strategies and different things that you need to learn and frameworks, and let’s try all of these different tools that we can use to help you feel better. I want to fix it up so well that it’s gone or at least that you don’t feel sad or hurt or mad about it anymore. 



But I don’t know if you’ve noticed that rarely can we succeed in fixing people’s feelings. And sometimes that’s another kind of downside of feeling empathy. Man, you’re starting to feel what it feels like to be in their shoes and it’s like I want to get out of these shoes myself. I want you to get out of these shoes. So what can I do? How can we make this better? And sometimes we move too quickly to problem solving and miss the staying with someone, miss that part, miss that empathy, and it could be uncomfortable. It means I see your pain, I’m trying to understand it without fixing it. I’m even imagining what it feels like if it were me, and then I’m letting it still be yours and I’m just staying with you because it’s you that’s facing it, not me. I don’t have the power to fix it, I can’t make it go away. I can only not leave you alone with it. I can stay with you is a better way to say it. Only not leave you alone with it, I can stay with you is a better way to say it, and that’s what we do in therapy. 



If I rush past the step, I mess it up. And that’s what we do in our friendships If I rush past the step, I miss it. I skip the step of letting them be seen and in my hurry to try to help them resolve it, and mostly it’s because I’m uncomfortable with their pain. Being empathic means I’m sitting in it with them. No wonder we often skip that step. 



When your child comes home from school and says no one sat with me at lunch, I was all alone. Oh my gosh, even as I say that, my heart hurts, right, what’s the first thing you want to do? Tell them it’s okay, it’s all right, let’s come up with a plan to fix it right. Maybe you could sit with somebody. I’ll come and have lunch with you. I wonder if we could call this friend and I’m not saying that we can’t come up with strategies and plans. It’s a good thing, that’s a great idea. But that’s a great idea, but only after we’ve been able to be with them, have that emotional connection, showing them sympathy, empathy or compassion, slowing it down and, seeing it from their perspective, maybe saying tell me more about that, how are you feeling. Oh, I’m with you on that. I can imagine what that would feel like. I believe you on that. I can imagine what that would feel like. I believe you. 



These are all just statements that slow it down and attend to a person that has been overwhelmed by something they don’t feel like they have enough resources to deal with in that moment. It calms their nervous system. So how do we do this? How do we break down the kind of steps or parts of being empathic? So when you look at some of the literature on empathy, I love the work of Teresa Wiseman. She is a nursing scholar and she identified four attributes of empathy. So I want to run through those because I think it helps us kind of get a great summary of what we’re talking about. 



Number one the first part of having empathy is learning to take on someone else’s perspective, and when you share that or you kind of look through the eyes of another person, you’re starting to see their perspective as their truth. Now I think this is really important. When I’m doing couples therapy, one of the most helpful things is to be able to slow things down enough that one partner can really hear the perspective of the other partner without that little voice in their head going yeah, that’s not true. Okay, yes, but or you should be doing this instead. Or but no, that’s not how it happened, or any of those things that offer an alternate view of it. We go to that because we’re in a, you know, back and forth, we’re tossing a ball back and forth with each other in this reciprocity. 



But when you have empathy with your partner this is why it’s such a bonding experience when your child says no one likes me, everyone hates me how do you take their perspective, step into that and see that as truth when deep inside your mind, your heart, your brain, your body, every part of your fiber of your being wants to plead with them? Tell them in no uncertain terms that they are absolutely wrong. Of course, everybody doesn’t not like you. I’m a person and I love you and, like you, want to argue with people, right, because, especially when it feels so devastating, I don’t want to even let that phrase hang in the air and give it any validity. But when we’re being empathic, we have to. It’s not that you’re going to agree with them. It’s that in order to really sit with them with this and stay with them with this, you have to step in their shoes and if you’re standing in their shoes, they’re seeing that as their truth in that moment. So it’s a big distinction when we take on someone else’s perspective. 



Number two we need to be non-judgmental. Once again, not the easiest thing to do, because when we judge another person’s situation we think we’re trying to help. Usually, I mean, very few times are we doing it to be mean or mean-spirited. But when we argue with them, or we judge them or we kind of decide whether this is a valuable thing to feel or not worthy of this emotion, we’re discounting their experience. So to take on the perspective of another emotion, we’re discounting their experience. So to take on the perspective of another person, we need to set aside our own thoughts and assumptions and biases for a minute. 



Number three we need to recognize that they are having an emotion and try to understand those feelings. So they’re going to maybe tell us how they feel, but they also might just tell us a story about what’s going on and our job is to be able to understand that they’re having an emotion about this and you know, once again we’re putting ourself aside so that we can focus on them. But in order for us to understand that people have emotions. We kind of have to understand what that process is like, right. So I think being able to practice the emotional body scan that we talk about a lot here at Leadership Parenting in my work with people what am I feeling, where is it in my body and how big is it that’s that acknowledging in the safe process. That’s where we connect with ourselves. 



This is when you’re validating somebody, when you’re, you know, staying with somebody and being an empathy, you’re able to kind of help them with that process. I see and we do this with our children, this is the strength of our parenting training and say what you see right, that listening ability. To be able to look at a child and say I see you’re feeling angry and not judge it and just identify it Particularly, name it is really helpful. And that’s number four communicating your understanding of their feelings to them. Not telling them what they feel, but just saying I see this is hard for you and you’re feeling really sad, and they’ll correct you usually no, it’s not sad, I’m angry or I’m just feeling really afraid. Whatever that is. You’re starting to really work to understand what they’re feeling. 



And step four is to communicate your understanding of that to them and that comes the other word for that is validation Shows you accept what they’re feeling, that you believe them, even if you wish they felt differently or you don’t agree with them. Feeling that way, you’re like I wouldn’t feel that way, so you’ve stepped out of empathy, right? I wouldn’t feel that way. You’re like I wouldn’t feel that way, so you’ve stepped out of empathy, right? I wouldn’t feel that way. It’s really not about you. It’s about what they’re feeling, and this happens in couples work all the time. Well, you know it. Just, I just was so upset by what you did or what you said or what that person said. Well, I didn’t do that on purpose. 



We miss the step of being able to say you are upset, I’m trying to understand what that feels like for you. Help me know what that feels like and that’s communicating to them. In other words, you could say I’m staying with you, I believe you. I’m not going to argue with you. I’m not going to say it’s my fault. I’m not going to say it’s somebody else’s fault. I’m going to. I’m not going to argue with you. I’m not going to say it’s my fault. I’m not going to say it’s somebody else’s fault. I’m just saying can I just get in your shoes for a minute and feel with you what you’re feeling? Sometimes we’re quick to just be like I just want you to feel something different. Don’t think that, don’t feel that. So step number four that’s that validation. 



This is actually what we’re doing when we have that toddler melting down over the broken banana. I love that example because it’s a ridiculous thing. Right, our brains tell us it’s a whole banana, even if it’s in two parts. This is ridiculous. This makes no sense. Well, step one we try to see it from our child’s perspective. This is my toddler’s young brain. They can’t really manage a lot of disappointment. Yet she really wanted the whole thing and it broke. I can see that. Number two we don’t judge it. It’s tempting to think this is stupid. It’s not a big deal, but let’s just accept it’s hard for them and not judge it. We’re going to make a decision to stay with them instead of being against them, trying to talk them out of it. Number three we recognize this is their emotion and not ours. I can see this isn’t about me. So this is some of that depersonalization and it’s not about me and what I feel. I’m not taking it personally. I’m going to allow them to feel what they feel. And number four we communicate it to them. I see how much this upsets you. Of course you’re upset. You wanted a whole banana. 



Okay, let’s apply these steps of empathy to a couple of our personal relationships. Let’s say your teen comes home and tells you they’re just stressed out of their mind. I had a mom tell me the other day. One of her teenagers said to her mom, I’m not like you, I don’t have as much extra time as you have. Mom, I’m not like you, I don’t have as much extra time as you have. And mom said she just about lost it because she wanted to just laugh and be like oh my gosh, I have no time, you have so much more time than I do. But she practiced empathy and really stayed with her daughter instead of arguing back. So let’s look at that teen coming home and telling you they are just stressed out of their mind. You’re going to try to see it from their perspective. 



Step number one maybe first in that cognitive empathy. Cognitively, what is it like being 17 again, with all those classes back to back and the drama that happens with friends and the stressors One of the best things that could happen are those back to school nights where you have to walk a mini schedule of your child’s day at school and you meet with all the teachers and you’re changing classes and you’re seeing how hard it is to get from second to third period and be on time. And that really helped me be in my kids’ shoes and understand what their day is like. Step two we’re not going to judge their feelings about feeling stressed out. Let them have their feelings and not talk them out of it. Step number three we’re also not going to try to fix it for them. Instead, we can say to them I believe you, tell me more about it. I want to really understand. Step number four now we validate them. 



I hear how overwhelmed you are. It doesn’t have to be like the perfect words. You can. I guarantee you someone will correct you. If you get it wrong, they’ll tell you. You can even say am I getting this right? I really want to understand how it feels for you and that’s it. That’s having empathy. And it can be a little hard to not fix anything, to not move on, and you can get there right. You can get to that. 



Step five what can we do? Is there something that might be helpful? I want you to know you’re not alone. That’s showing compassion. You want to alleviate that suffering. So it’s hard not to argue with them. It’s hard for me too, because sometimes I just don’t want it to be true what they’re saying and I want to make things better. I want to show them the silver lining in something hard right, giving them some kind of alternative that might be worse. At least you don’t have to do this. All this is well-meaning, but not something that connects us. 



Connection is the goal, using sympathy, empathy and compassion to connect us. Well, this episode has gone longer. I’m not done. I have more I want to talk about with empathy, because I don’t think we can have a conversation about empathy without talking about the hidden traps in empathy, and we’ve alluded to them today. But I think we need to just talk about them a little bit more because, just like anything, empathy can have its dark side. 



So I’m going to do another episode on some of the hard things that we have to watch out for with empathy, so that we really understand how to use this beautiful power tool of connection to be able to help us feel that closeness with each other and to calm those nervous systems down. This is like one of the kind of most golden pieces of marriage therapy. This is what heals the relationships between parents and children. This is what bonds us to our friends. This is why you want to call that one friend when you’re really having a hard time, because she’s going to let you feel what you feel and be with you in it and not try to rush you out of it. This is powerful stuff and I hope that I was able to break it down a little bit that you can see you have a menu to use. Sympathy is good, empathy is good. We’ll talk about how to keep those in line so that we’re not overrun by them, but you have a menu and all of it is leading you to be compassionate and all of that is going to strengthen your relationships and calm those nervous systems down. 



So thank you for your time today. As we talk about this really awesome tool that we have, as always, I’d love to hear your questions about it. We can go on deeper dives. There’s so much more to talk about and I will be back on that dark side of empathy, so you can count on that. I hope you guys have a great week. I hope that you show yourself the compassion and do some of these steps. You know, when we do these steps for others, we’re calling it empathy and compassion. When we do it for ourselves, it’s called loving, self-compassion and kindness. All good, we need it all. Thanks so much for our time together, guys, and I will talk to you next week. Take care. 



The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again and take care.

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