Taking February to focus solely on happiness has helped me learn so much about myself. I’ve learned to honor all of the good around me, but also to honor the bad. And let’s face it, 2020 was not a great year for a lot of people.
In my last blog, I talked about difficult conversations. Although talking about COVID may seem like a casual conversation topic these days, it’s important to step back and realize that some people may have had the worst year of their lives. Some people will be much more sensitive to COVID conversations than others.
As human beings, some people are empathetic and some are not. But in today’s environment, having empathy when we are communicating is imperative. You have no idea what someone may be fighting with or what they went through in the past year.
WHY SHOULD WE COMMUNICATE WITH EMPATHY?
When we communicate with empathy, it does NOT look like feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand that they may be dealing with a very unique situation. Empathy is opening up your heart and choosing to look at a situation from more than just your own perspective. I love this video that clearly describes the true nature of empathy and how it differs from sympathy. Though the two sound the same, they are clearly very different.
HOW CAN WE SHOW EMPATHY?
Check in with your loved ones before you start a conversation that may be touchy. Be aware of their needs and their emotions in that moment. This will allow space for a warm, comfortable environment to be created for this person.
Finding ways to make every interaction meaningful (even if it’s virtual) is another amazing way to communicate with empathy. Show genuine interest and concern for their wellness and be sure to actively listen (link active listening blog) when you’re having a conversation with them.
THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.
Consider some of the ways that the pandemic has affected your life. Are you working from home or on leave? Are your kids home due to school closures? Do you have plenty of food in your pantry?
Now think about how others might answer those same questions. Many people are out of work, and others have no choice but to continue working in what might not feel like a safe environment. Some people are worried about how to find childcare as they continue to work, and many may be struggling to find or pay for basic necessities.
Whether it’s a conversation about COVID-19 or a conversation about what you did this weekend, take a moment to check in with yourself and others before saying anything that might trigger trauma in someone.
Communicating with empathy not only builds more meaningful relationships, but also allows you to find kindness in yourself amid the “new normal.” We’re all still learning, which is why finding room for kindness and understanding is more important now than ever before.