Many therapists speak about the concept of empathy which is vitally important in order to have meaningful and lasting relationships. Empathy is not the same as sympathy, which is the act of feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is a more complicated concept.

When one is being empathetic, or empathic, that means that one is understanding that somebody feels the way that they do because of their circumstance. It does not imply that we are happy the person feels the way that they do, or we think it’s a positive thing that they feel the way they do, there is no judgment placed on whether the person should feel the way that they feel. Empathy simply means that we understand that they feel the way that they feel. It sounds easy, but it is very hard to put into practice due to our desire to make sense of the way other people feel, sometimes it won’t make sense to us.

Practicing empathy improves family relationships

To practice empathy you have to step back and observe in a non-judgmental manner. You may not understand why your child is upset that someone didn’t compliment her picture, or why your wife is upset that her friend’s husband had an affair, because those kinds of things wouldn’t be upsetting to you. But empathy is not about how you feel about a situation, it’s about understanding how someone else feels about it, whether you agree with their feelings or not.

When someone tells us that they understand our feelings, even if they don’t share them, we feel validated and understood. When we feel these things we then feel closer and more connected.

If you’re looking for help with building stronger relationships, contact me to learn more about how relationship counseling can help.