It is not uncommon to disagree with another person’s views. Be it politics, religion, or something as silly as whether you should be using paper or plastic at the supermarket, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone. However, it is very important to practice empathy, if you want to foster lasting relationships with those around you.
So what exactly is empathy? Not to be confused with sympathy, which is the ability to feel sorrow for someone else’s misfortune, empathy is being able to connect with and understand the feelings of another. In a nutshell, it is putting yourself in another person’s shoes and not freaking out about it.
Whether with your friends, family members, kids, neighbors, colleagues or your favorite Starbucks barista, empathy is very important when it comes to building lasting relationships with others. The most important person you should be empathizing with is, of course, your partner. If you can’t connect with the most important person in your life, then who can you connect with?
Why is empathy so important?
If everyone in the world could empathize with each other, the world truly would be a better place. It is understandable that hoping for worldwide empathy is a long shot, so why not start slow and learn to empathize with your significant other? Here are 7 glaring reasons why empathy is very important in a relationship, and why you should be practicing this virtue.
#1 Bridge the divide. Fights often break out between couples because they cannot seem to see eye to eye on certain issues. Whether it is something major like deciding whether to have kids or something minor like figuring out what to eat for dinner, put yourself in your partner’s shoes so that bridging the divide and getting past differences is not impossible. [Read: 16 clear signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]
#2 Give each other attention. When you learn to empathize with your lover, you will be able to shower him or her with the right amount of attention and love. When you put yourself in your partner’s shoes, you will know whether you are smothering them with too much affection or if you are not setting enough time aside for them. Whether you are with a high powered career woman or with a stay-at-home dad, empathy will give you an inkling into their lives and what they expect from you.
#3 Bring out the positive. When you can empathize with your spouse, you will bring out the positivity not just in you, but in your partner. Understanding your loved one’s behavior and how they approach life’s challenges will give you full access into their world. This will undoubtedly bring positive change for both parties. [Read: Could your negative thinking be ruining your life?]
#4 Compassion is practiced. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes will undoubtedly give you the wonderful ability to be a more compassionate person. When you can connect with your partner and see for yourself what they have to go through on a daily basis, you will understand just why they are the way they are. This, in turn, will give you insight into how to make their world a better place and yours along with it.
#5 Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is all about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Whether it is donning your wife’s stiletto pumps and envisioning yourself at yet another one of her high pressured meetings, or putting on your husband’s muddy work boots for another tiring day at the quarry, you will be able to shed light on why they behave the way they do if you understand what they have to go through.
If your husband is a real grouch or if your girlfriend whines about work every time she has the chance to, it is because they want you to understand what they are experiencing. Instead of letting everything in one ear and out the other, visualize yourself in their shoes and act accordingly.
#6 It teaches patience. Empathy will undeniably teach both parties a thing or two about patience. Instead of losing your temper and taking things the wrong way, you can choose to react calmly by looking at things from someone else’s point of view in a patient and understanding manner.
For example, I make dinner for my partner at least three times a week. A month ago, I tried out a new recipe and instead of applauding my efforts, he said, “Honey, I prefer the fish you made last week.” Instead of getting angry and annoyed, I put myself in his shoes. There is nothing wrong with having differing tastes and opinions. So by empathizing with him and being patient, I avoided an unnecessary blowout with him over something as silly as dinner. [Read: 9 ways to master the art of constructive criticism]
#7 Work on your flaws. Another reason why empathy is so important in a relationship is because it teaches both sides that everything is not just about them. There are two sides to everything and being in a relationship is no different. When you empathize with your partner, you will be able to see why they get annoyed or upset with you. This can bring about nothing but positive change, as seeing the way you behave through their eyes will prompt you to work on your flaws and be a better person to them.
[Read: 8 habits that strengthen your bond with your partner]
Self-awareness and a non judgmental attitude is needed before you can properly empathize with someone. Look within yourself and find the strength to be less selfish and more understanding and you are well on your way to connecting better with your loved ones.
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