How do I Show Empathy when I don’t Feel it?

I get asked “how do I show empathy all the time.”  One of the most common challenges for parents is how to feel empathetic when their child(ren) make mistakes.  It can be challenging.  It takes practice.  When our energy is low, it is even harder to have empathy for someone else.  You might want to read my blog (Rule #1-Take Care of Yourself).

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  Growing up can be hard.  It helps if we can put ourselves in our child’s shoes and remember what it was like when we were growing up. Some of us struggled with being “good,” some of us struggled with controlling ourselves and still others struggled with not knowing what to do or how to behave.

It helps if we can actively imagine what our child may be feeling, without jumping to conclusions about their behavior and/or motivations. Most of the time our children do not have the same perspective and/or experiences as we do.

Here are a few tips for getting in that place of empathy:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Let all the air out of your lungs (repeat as many times as necessary).
  3. I find it helpful to drop my shoulders.
  4. Ask yourself:  how hard is it to receive a natural consequence?

Sometimes your empathetic statement may need to be as brief as AW!  Other good ones are:  “how sad,”  “oh no” or “dang!”  Dr. Helen Reiss gives us this pneumonic device to help increase awareness, knowledge, and skills in practicing empathy:

Eye Contact is necessary
Muscles of Human Expressions
Posture conveys level of connection
Affect or expressed emotions
Tone of Voice (resides where fight or flight responses reside)
Hearing the whole person (context)
Your responses (we absorb)

To get help with building a better relationship with your children, please sign up for my “5 Keys to Connecting” course by clicking here.

Happy Parenting!