Empathy may be the single most important trait for helping relationships survive and grow. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, empathy is actually putting yourself in their place and becoming aware of how you think they would feel. This is especially hard when your negative emotions are intense. If you can keep yourself together, not reacting defensively, and ask yourself what the other person is defending you will likely be more able to defuse the situation. In tense situations it is often not what one says but the way they say it that escalates the situation. This question is one of the best to help you defuse your own anger. Remember you are not asking or demanding how you should be treated at this time but you are empathizing with the other person and how they would want to be treated.
I can remember a fight that my wife and I had in the early part of our marriage. Being young, immature, and prideful I remember thinking how I wish we could just stop, say we were sorry, hug each other, and start over. But sad to say I was not able to do that then because, “it’s on now!”. Take a tip from an old guy who has been married over 40 years. Give up your pride sooner rather than later if you want your interpersonal relationships to go better.
As you show the positives behaviors this question solicits in you to the other person you not only will likely lessen the tension of the moment, but also will be modeling the very actions your desire from the other person.
Remember speaking the truth in love is about as healthy as communication can get. Not speaking the truth at all or using it mean spiritedly as a weapon is about as bad as communication can get. Of those two choices which way would you want to be treated? Likely the person you are talking with feels the same.
Use this Card to…
- Remind yourself of the importance and power of empathy in relationships
- Help you maintain self control whether the person you are talking with does or not
- Lessen the tension between you and who you are communicating with
- Develop your own self control while not demanding it of others