An open letter to people who lacks empathy
What you are getting into: 675 words, 4mins read
Recently I have come across people who have absolutely no empathy. They only care about themselves. To the point where they think they are the center of the whole entire universe. They only talk about themselves. They care about nothing. They don’t care about people who have no food, no water, no water, no access to education, no access to internet, well you get the idea. Yet they think they are living the toughest life there is in the whole entire universe.
I think they lack empathy.
This article talks about empathy.
Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection. Words from Brene Brown.
- To be able to see the world as others see it—this requires putting our stuff aside to see the situation through the eyes of a loved one
- To be nonjudgmental—judgement of another person’s situation discounts the experience and is an attempt to protect ourselves from the pain of the situation
- To understand another person’s feelings—we need to be in touch with our personal feelings in order to understand someone else’s. This also requires putting aside “us” to focus on our loved one
- To communicate our understanding of that person’s feelings—rather than saying, “At least…” or “It could be worse…” try, “I’ve been there, and that really hurts,” or (to quote an example from Brown) “It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it.”
Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes requires tremendous amount of effort. We need to let down our guard, to feel the emotions they are feeling, to open ourselves up. In order words, we need to be vulnerable as well.
Raise your hand if you know people who are immensely judgmental. Without getting all the facts right, they jump into conclusions. I am no saint either. I too have times where I judge someone without even knowing what they have been through. This is because of our biological nature. Back in the caveman days humans require quick judgment in sensing danger. However, now that the world have industrialised, we have not shaken that innate trait off, and it is causing a lot of problems.
Even if we let our guard down and try to feel what people are feeling without any judgment, are we even good enough to communicate what we think in our own minds to them? To speak in a way that doesn’t raise their defence walls higher. To express our condolences and that we have experienced their pain once in our lives before.
What if we have yet to experience such sorrow?
Then we keep our mouths shut.
Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice. In order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with, “At least…”
Here are some of the examples Brene gave:
They: “I had a miscarriage.”
I: “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
They: ”I think my marriage is falling apart.”
I: “At least you have a marriage.”
They: ”John’s getting kicked out of school.”
I: “At least Sarah is an A-student.”
Someone shared something with us that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying to “silver lining” it. I don’t think that’s a verb, but I’m using it as one. We’re trying to put a silver lining around it.
But this approach almost always doesn’t work. We try to sympathise by silver lining it and we end up making things worse. When trying to sympathise we may end up making the other person feel worse than they did before they approached us.
So don’t sympathise. Let’s empathise instead. Stop silver lining it. Let’s understand their plight. If we can’t, then let’s just keep our mouths shut.
Because sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen.