Embrace Empathy To Be The Best Version Of Yourself
By Marta Romão, Communication & Marketing Professional
One of the things I like the most about writing is to put myself in other's shoes. Trying to think, feel and act like another person. Maybe someone I cross paths with every day at the metro, or the lady I see every morning at the coffee shop. Sometimes, my mind wanders and I try to imagine who they really are and how they really feel.
That dreamy action that I sometimes do when I’m still half asleep in the morning, or bored on some plane trip, can actually be interpreted as the action of projecting one’s personality, and that has a name: empathy. Empathy is to feel what others are experiencing and to resonate with them. It's not about feeling sorry for others, but to pay attention to someone so that we can be able to really understand them.
That means that sometimes you end up in tears when a friend tells you something sad that has happened to him, but also, that you feel genuinely happy by the achievements of someone you love. And who am I trying to fool, I cry like a baby when I watch some lame movie and, sometimes, even when I watch the news.
Empathy is not a weakness, on the contrary, it is what makes us exceptional friends, workers, and partners.
One very inspiring person for me, in this field, is Matthieu Ricard, a biochemist who turned into a Buddhist Monk, that has been giving meaningful contributions to understand happiness and well-being, through concepts such as altruistic love, compassion, and empathy. On this TED Talk called “The Habits of Happiness”, Ricard talks about mind training and how it determines the quality of every instant of our lives.
“We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet, we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most - the way our mind functions - which is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience.” he says.
Why is that? Our body is the vehicle for our mind so, first and foremost, we should care about how we feel emotionally, and connect with others through our mind. It is true that every experience we have comes through our mind. You know when you say you are so tired it feels you were hit by a truck? Or when you are so sad that you can't move? There it is, our mind strictly connected with our body.
When you realize you are attracted to someone, don’t you try so hard to understand that person, even when you are struggling with the fact he/she is definitely not your type? That is an active and conscious effort to seek to understand someone, to genuinely connect.
And the same applies to work environment and professional relationships. Feeling tuned with your colleagues does raise your motivation, doesn’t it? And the same with your boss. When you have one that cares, that sets examples you can relate to, don’t you feel much more inclined to think you are glad where you are?
I believe that each one of us leaves a mark in the world.
That doesn’t mean we have to be the next Obama. Creating meaningful relationships with the ones who surround us is already an incredible accomplishment. I don’t know yet which will be my greatest achievement in this life, but I am sure that making a small difference in the range of my simple life is the first thing I can do.
Practicing good starts with baby steps. It starts with us. It starts with understanding yourself and tuning in with others. So why don’t we try to do it more often, with every person that we meet on the way? Understanding your colleague who has to leave earlier than you because of family issues, not looking the other way to someone who sleeps on the streets, giving shelter to that abandoned animal who might just be lost. And, on the bright days, feeling glad about your partner’s achievements and laughing hard when your kid laughs.
Feeling truly happy for others will make you a happier person.
Marta works in communication and is the author of the blog Singularidades de uma Millennial. She carries her life on a suitcase and has been living in different countries experiencing each culture at the most. Her homeland is not only the Portuguese language but the world as a whole. She is a storyteller, an animal lover and a #proudmillennial. You can connect with Marta here.