Mindfullness Minute: Empathy

Dana SamardzichIAAP Summit 2016 Speaker
Session during IAAP Summit 2016 is:

  • Team Dynamics: Gourmet Meals Are Not Made in a Blender
    7.24.2016 | 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Happy Monday! Today’s Mindfulness Minute is about empathy. Something that sets me on edge is screaming children. No matter where it is, I tend to feel very anxious if there is a child screaming in my vicinity. That anxiety usually leads to annoyance or even anger (you would think I would be used to it since I have a child who screams from time to time…). When I was around some screaming children recently, something different happened. I felt the old anxiety, annoyance, and blame come up. Then, I thought, “Wow. It must be so hard for that mother right now. I remember those moments when my son was smaller and it was really hard for me.” In the next moment, I felt my annoyance blow away (I still had the anxiety, but that was my feeling for me to face on my own). I was able to connect with the anxiety and frustration that mother was feeling because I had (and still feel) that type of anxiety and frustration with my own child. That process of connecting to her emotion is called empathy. Empathy is a key component when practicing compassion, especially when we are dealing with difficult people or situations.

IAAP Summit Blog Graphic

Empathy is being able to connect with another’s emotion as they experience it. It’s putting yourself into another’s shoes. According to Theresa Wiseman, who is a nursing scholar who studied empathy, there are four attributes to empathy. The first attribute is perspective-taking. You step out of your own perspective and look at things from the perspective of the other person. The second attribute is withholding judgment. You have to put aside your own opinion, beliefs, and judgments so you can be open enough to take another’s perspective. The third attribute is recognizing emotions. You have to be able to recognize the emotions the other person is feeling. The fourth attribute is communication of understanding. To me, this is the most important attribute because this is where the rubber meets the road. You let the other person know that you understand the emotions they are feeling. You don’t have to understand the situation they are in–you just have to be able to connect with their emotions that they feel, like anger, grief, sadness, frustration, etc. When we practice this skill of empathy, we can open ourselves to being more compassionate.

Take a minute: When you are feeling negative feelings towards someone–it could be a fellow commuter who cuts you off in traffic or your spouse or loved one, see if you can see your situation from their position. Drop all your judgments and really connect with how they are feeling. What do you notice about your experience? Do you feel a sense of caring and compassion open up?

Dana Samardzich is a life coach who is passionate about helping hard-working professionals develop happier and more balanced lives. She does this by helping the clients clarify what is most important in their lives and helps them make choices based around those values. Because many life choices aren’t clear-cut and easy to make, she also teaches clients about mindfulness and self compassion practices. These practices keep the clients from getting bogged down in their own fear and uncertainty, which is the major reason people are unable to make changes or sustain the changes they have made. Dana received her Certified Professional Coach certification through the International Coach Academy in 2009 and is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She speaks regularly at association events across the country. 


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