How to know you are empathetic

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Key aspects to reveal whether you are empathetic or not.

  • You are good at listening to what others have to say.
  • People often tell you about their problems
  • You are good at picking up on how other people are feeling
  • You often think about how other people feel
  • Other people come to you for advice
  • You try to help others who are suffering
  • You are good at telling when people aren’t being honest
  • Sometimes you feel drained or overwhelmed in social situation
  • It’s difficult to set boundaries in your relationships because of how deeply you care about other people.

Why do we need to be more compassionate?

I myself am empathetic and I’ve lived my life without knowing about it for years. This trait happened to have developed in me as a result of my behavior that was triggered by the environment that I lived in. That being said, people that surrounded me, situations that took place whether good or bad, and my emotional reactions to those situations. All of this was a milestone for me to become empathetic.

I believe that this is a consciously trained and subconsciously developed trait that helps us communicate with others, understand them, their feelings and emotions, their state of mind, which then lets us be insightful about our own and someone else’s perspective. If you think it’s a born trait,  where did the person grow up? In what kind of family? What values did that family have? How did the parents treat others? Did they teach you to notice other people’s feelings? 

Story time.

As a kid I loved to eat. When my mom and I went to visit her friend and have dinner together, I asked for seconds. Well, I didn’t realize that what I got, that was it. My mom’s friend looked uncomfortable and I couldn’t understand why. Later on our way home, my mom explained to me that it was rude to ask for seconds and that I shouldn’t do it going forward. It’s not that they were greedy or that my mom was wrong — she wasn’t due to financial issues most of the people were going through in Ukraine at the time. It is actually much worse right now.

My brain didn’t understand that people simply didn’t have enough money to cook a lot of food but they invited us because my family was kind to them. Since then, I’ve always felt awkward eating at someone else’s house. I still do and avoid dinners when possible due to this traumatic event. I say traumatic not in the sense that I have PTSD now, but to describe how strongly it impacted my personality. It was the first time I analyzed someone’s emotions. I am working on releasing the guilt. Although, I realize that it might’ve been more miniscule than I thought, inside it seems like I hurt someone’s feelings. I know I am empathetic.

It is possible to experience emotional and physical reaction to someone else’s emotions at the same time, empathy can be divided into three types:

Affective empathy, somatic empathy and cognitive empathy.

Affective empathy is the ability to understand someone’s emotions and respond appropriately. In other words, you feel concerned about their well-being. 

Somatic empathy is a physical reaction to what someone else is experiencing. For example, if you see someone is about or starts crying you feel like crying too, or if they smile/laugh you want to do the same.

Cognitive empathy means you understand other people’s mental state and what they might be thinking in response to the situation.

About a month ago the person I had only seen a handful of times had gone through an extremely painful experience with her partner next to my workplace. That day she was working with me but when I sent her to take lunch, she disappeared for a concerning amount of time. She always smiled at me and had positive energy, so I was a little confused about where she had gone. I then asked my supervisor if she was ok. I was told that something terrible had happened and the police were involved. A little while after that day I saw her crying. She started apologizing to me for leaving without telling me. I was torn into a million pieces inside and felt the need to give her a hug, which I did.

To my surprise, I felt as if a bond had been created between us, and I am not exaggerating. When we support each other there is always a connection that builds even though you barely know the person. It is that ability to understand someone else, experience what they are going through without actually having this occur to you.

Being empathetic isn’t easy.

It is unbelievably hard to take in someone’s emotions or feelings and try to deal with them without affecting your own health. I spent many years living someone else’s emotions that stressed me out and I thought to myself a lot “just how did I change so much?”. “How did I turn into a massive ball of anger and anxiety when I used to mind my own business and calmly do my stuff?” Well, I came to realize I was empathetic when reading more about the human mind, the brain, behavioral patterns as I dug deeper and deeper into why people behaved a certain way. This helped me look at things from a different point of view and I was able to put myself in their shoes, try to feel what they felt and it worked.

I have been devoted to finding my true self in order to connect better with others. You cannot learn much about other people if you know little about yourself. This is the key that leads to mature decision-making that supports relationships and builds trust between people. If you don’t trust someone, it means you don’t trust yourself. How many times did you feel guilty for buying something you later thought you didn’t need? How many times did you start a project that you either didn’t finish or didn’t think was good enough to continue working on? This trust is your confidence. It isn’t simply a fact. It’s something you are confident about. Whether it’s information, ideas. When you trust something or someone, you validate your opinion of them.

Difference between empathy, sympathy and compassion.

While sympathy and compassion are related to empathy, they are more of a passive connection, while being empathetic usually involves a much more active attempt to understand another person.

If you’ve ever felt burned out, overwhelmed or had a lack of energy, there is a good chance you’ve experienced empathy fatigue. This could be due to being exposed to stressful or traumatic events. 

There is a way to control your feelings and emotions and from my personal experience, it works!  It may sound simple but it isn’t easy to do. When I was severely depressed, my therapist suggested I practice acknowledging my emotions because I would cry or become angry, or be sad most of the time. I did not have a good day in many years because I didn’t know what to do.

Try this.

  • Whenever you are having a positive or negative episode, think of how you feel.
  • Think what made you feel like that.
  • Also consider who’s emotion/feeling this is.
  • Try doing it until you don’t have to force it.
  • Can you accept it? This will be the hardest to do.

To accept anger or sadness can be challenging but it is possible, just believe you can do it.

Once you practice this and trust me, there will be times when you may not be able to do it. It’s ok. I had so many of those times until I reached peace of mind. By peace of mind I don’t mean indifference. What I’m talking about here is the ability to accept and move on. Once you learn to filter your mind, you will be so grateful to yourself. This exercise helped me change my life tremendously. You don’t need to let emotions control you. You can let them visit you but in the end, it is up to you who’s at the steering wheel.

Stay tuned for more!


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3 responses to “How to know you are empathetic”

  1. […] This voice would tell me that I was pathetic, incapable of doing things right, lacking discipline, overly emotional and that there was no way out. It was laughing while I was crying. It was making me smaller and […]

  2. […] active listening and compassion can certainly aid you in most situations whether it’s at home or work. You don’t always have to […]

  3. […] for practicing self-love. Once you feel more harmonious with your own self, you’ll be able to learn to be more compassionate to others, you’ll be able to understand them better and yourself, too. We shouldn’t […]

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