“To empathize with a particular person, I need to have at least some knowledge of who he is and what he is doing or trying to do,” says Neel Burton on Psychology Today. So really, the first step to empathizing with a person is truly knowing them. Let’s say you come home to an exhausted and emotionally drained spouse. If you knew nothing of what they did during their typical day, it would be easy to brush aside how they are acting or dismiss their feelings.
“Rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection.” –Dr. Brown
But let’s say you do know your spouse and you know that they visit the nursing home where their mother lives every day for an hour. Furthermore, you know their mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and cannot even remember your spouse’s name, which results in an emotionally draining, daily visit. Now we know that a poor response to this exhausted spouse would be something like “at least your mother is still alive”. An empathetic spouse takes their loved one in a hug and says something like, “I can’t even know how you are feeling, that must be so hard. I’m so proud of you for visiting your mother everyday.”
“Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” –Dr. Brown
Dr. Brown says,“Rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection”. So not only do we work on responses in our marriages and relationships, but also the connection we have with our loved one. A new dissemination organization discussed the differences between empathy and sympathy, and stated the following on the interaction between two people. “We not only have to actively listen to another person’s problem without judgment but then be honest with ourselves and the other person about our feelings as a listener.
That connection builds bridges that enforce trust and understanding that are healthy and positive for both people.” Empathizing with a loved one can save a relationship or save your marriage, so it is definitely worth a second look.
Jenny Ensing - Relationships Counsellor
We’ve all heard the words “empathy” and “sympathy” but is there really a difference? And if there is a difference, what does that have to do with a relationship? With over 5 million views, Dr. Brené Brown explains these two words for us in her video entitled Brené Brown on Empathy.
She begins by stating that “empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection”. Dr. Brown also discusses the importance of perspective and judgment when it comes to dealing with other people’s emotions.
When we take another minute to put ourselves in our loved one’s shoes, we show we care and that we are willing to take the time to make sure they feel heard. Dr. Brown explains that “empathy is feeling with people”.
“When our sweetheart lets us know something near and dear to their heart, perhaps a difficult trial they are going through, we have a choice.”
When our sweetheart lets us know something near and dear to their heart, perhaps a difficult trial they are going through, we have a choice. We can respond with a sympathetic response or better yet an empathetic response which will protect your marriage from regrets and hurt feelings.
“Never, does an empathic response begin with ‘at least’” says Dr. Brown. She uses the example of a distressed person saying “I think my marriage is falling apart” and the other person responding with a sympathetic response of “at least you have a marriage”. No matter the intentions, if a spouse begins a phrase with “at least”, they cannot be empathizing.
Chances are, if there is more sympathizing and less empathizing in a marriage, it may crumble. Learning to empathize could save your marriage!
“Empathizing with a loved one can save a relationship or save your marriage.”
Elena Carroll is a student of Brigham Young University-Idaho, majoring in Marriage and Family Studies, with some real life perspective on making your relationship a great one! She currently lives with her husband in the beautiful town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Burton, N. (2015, May 22). Empathy Vs. Sympathy. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201505/empathy-vs-sympathy
Francis-Sears, A. (Producer). (2013). Brene Brown on Empathy [Motion picture].
The Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy. (2015, January 12). Retrieved March 12, 2016, from https://themindunleashed.org/2015/01/difference-sympathy-empathy.html