On the 13th and 15th of February I posted the first two parts to the communication and conflict resolution model titled ABEAR. A for Acknowledgement and B for Breathe. Today I will share the last three parts.
The E stands for Empathy.
Empathy is defined as; “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
When someone is opening up to us about a subject that is important to him or her, we can by understanding and feeling where the person is coming from, offer him or her a gift. This requires that we are directing all our attention to the person speaking, so that we can repeat and mirror what has been said and felt. Eye contact is essential, and that we are totally present – which means that we don’t fiddle with anything, phones, papers etc., or think about what we want to say or do later. We are only listening, and not judging what is being said.
For example, “did I hear you correctly; “did you say that you are having a hard time to relax at home and sometimes feel irritated because there is too much noise coming from music, TV and computers – and this noise is making you feel moody after a long day at work?” “So what I am hearing is that you are longing for some quiet time at home, am I right?”
It is helpful to remind ourselves when we are building our empathy muscle, that the opinions, experiences and feelings of another person is personal, and that there is no use in arguing about their experiences. Their opinions should not pose any threat to us, but it might mean we need to make some adjustments in our lives to accommodate and meet others where they are. A win-win attitude – which for many can be hard at first but is key to success and making relationships flourish.
Carl Roger states, “We think we listen, but rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”
We find out if we have been able to listen and exercise our empathy next in the ABEAR model. The 2nd A – stands for Agree. We need to agree with what has been said – to a certain degree. We don’t have to agree with everything, but we want to find truth in it. This phase will assist us with our Response – which is the last phase of the model.
Our empathy is being tested in our willingness to respond with an action -something we are willing to help with, stop or start doing, or do differently. An empathetic response could for example be –“I agree that it can be quite noisy when you arrive home from work. I hear your need some time everyday when you come home to settle in and relax. I am wondering how much quiet time you need in order to feel good and relaxed at home?”
Developing our empathy skills is not easy. Many of us live with intensity; we are busy and live with many distractions making it challenging to exercise the level of presence that is necessary for real empathy.
It is however possible to develop this skill. When we learn to listen and without judgments we truly are offering a gift to one another.
To be listened to by someone showing real empathy is healing, nurturing and healthy – and it also creates bonding connections. And being empathic is the fastest way to prevent fiery conflicts and arguments.
“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” Robert Ebert