Want joy? Practice empathy.

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Want joy? Practice empathy.

Do you secretly like to read articles like “Top 5 traits happy people have in common”? I admit I get sucked into them when they pop up on my facebook feed. Recently I was reading an article on traits of happy relationships. One of the “key factors” mentioned was the ability to share successes. This stuck with me, and got me thinking about empathy.

Empathy is an important component in how we relate to each other. It is a foundational element in building trust. It is so important; I often speak about empathy in workshops and with clients. Empathy is about connecting with what another is sharing and “feeling with.” We don’t have to have shared the same experience as someone to connect with empathy. Empathy is about connecting with the core emotion and letting that other person know “I get it.” It is not always easy. Lucky for us, empathy can be learned and practiced.

We often see empathy as something necessary when we are going through something hard. Brené Brown is famous for saying, “Empathy is the antidote to shame.” When we share tough stuff with someone, getting an empathetic response can feel comforting. So…what about when we are going through something amazing? Empathy is just as important during life’s highs than during life’s lows, yet it’s often overlooked. While it may seem obvious to practice positive empathy, it is easy to miss the mark. What gets in the way?

Empathy is just as important during life’s highs than during life’s lows…

The Comparison Trap

When those close to us share what is going well in their lives, it’s easy to find ourselves fall into the comparison trap. We listen to their successes and positive experiences and start to compare our life to theirs. Social politeness will often dictate a pleasant response. While deep down we can often see others’ wins as a threat, if we don’t feel that we are doing as well as we perceive they are. I have a framed print of a Theodore Roosevelt quote on my coffee table that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Practice Empathy Not Comparison

Any empathic practice consists of us looking deep within ourselves to find the common feeling that another is expressing. In a positive scenario it is no different. Imagine your best friend shared with you that she got a rave review at work and is getting a promotion she has always wanted. Instead of going into an internal comparison of how you aren’t happy in your own work life, try practicing empathy. Dig deep to connect into that sense of excitement and joy and share with her that you know how wonderful that joy can feel.

Positive empathy is a guaranteed win-win.

Positive empathy is a guaranteed win-win. The person sharing gets to express their positive emotions with an understanding response, while the person responding with empathy gets to touch in with their own experience of that positive emotion in a shared celebration of success. The next time someone close to you shares something positive, check your response. Are you responding with empathy?

As always, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below to keep the conversation going!

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