The Strength of EMPATHY!

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Thanks for joining me on Day 2 as I discover my top strengths, based on the affirming book Strengthsfinder.

Who wants to take a guess at #2 of my top 5 Strengths?

EMPATHY

People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

“You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament- this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings- to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life…” {p.97, Strengthsfinder}

Does this describe you? Do you feel others’ sorrow and elation? Do you sense the tone of a room as soon as you enter?

Then, you too, my friend, have the strength of Empathy.

As I write this, I’m half-listening/half-watching Master Chef, where everyday people use their cooking skills to rival in a high-stakes competition. One contender, a blind lady, who, mind you, is slicing a lemon, is sharing her story about how her sight was lost. All the while, she tends to the bubbling pot, feels about for the proper utensils, and adds spices to her gourmet dish. Humbly, she explains that she has the upper hand in this competition because she truly tastes the food and avoids having to see the others’ dishes.
…And I’m crying. I’m feeling her passion and smelling her hard work. The admiration tears fall because she has overcome.

For those with a top strength of Empathy, you will benefit from these Ideas for Action:

*Sometimes empathy does not require words at all. A kind gesture may be all someone needs to be reassured…” {p.99, Strengthsfinder}

Have you been in a situation when someone is noticeably pained or jubilant? It’s okay to hug, or meet their gaze, or just “sit in it” with them. Oftentimes, words unsaid leave the most comfort.

*Consider serving others as a confidante or mentor. Because trust is paramount to you, people are likely to feel comfortable approaching you with any need. Your discretion and desire to be genuinely helpful will be greatly valued. {p.99, Strengthsfinder}

Keep in mind that while others’ may confide in you, the hand-in-hand compliment to empathy is judgement, which holds you responsible for how you handle their emotions. Their situation is not ammunition to better advance you, nor is it appropriate to speak ill of them, but to simply understand.

To understand someone. It’s not sympathizing or condoning one’s choices, but sharing their felt emotions. What better gift, than to naturally feel tears when one weeps, or scream with joy when celebration is deserved.

Unaware that Empathy was one of my top strengths, ironically, I wrote The Gift of Empathy last winter. You can read it here. Enjoy!

For all you Empathizers out there, continue to feel others emotions. Allow it make you more compassionate and thankful to share this life with individuals, each writing their unique story.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

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