Monday, March 9, 2015

A lesson in the vocabulary of Empathy

These couple of days, I find myself being on the other end of a listening ear - career troubles, personal woes, insecurities and the like. It struck me how far I've come along, to be able to just listen and take in everything when just a week ago, I was doing everything but.

I have been accused of not being able to listen, and more so not being able to understand. I think this habit of judging is masked under the excuse of problem solving, when in fact I find it comfortable to judge from afar and dissociate myself from the situation. When it comes to problems that need solving, such an attitude is at an advantage. However, when it comes to putting myself in other people's shoes, all I could do was to critique how the colour of the socks goes wrongly with the shoes.

I think yesterday and today, I took a different step - I have decided to be more aware of what the person's trying to tell me. A good friend of mine told me, that people often know the answers for the questions they ask, and when they reach out, they really are just looking to you to understand and in their moment of weakness, lean on you.

It's true, and on hindsight, my friends often have decided their course of action and my "advice" is affirming and supportive - and while I may not agree, ultimately it's something that I keep in private. It is their time to speak, and so I've learn that keeping silent about my own opinions about their course of action is not essential, it is mandatory. It is the same, when I seek others for help - the last thing I want is a break down of 10 other ways I could have managed the situation better. I seek for comfort and understanding - a friendly hug and a warm smile to tell me everything is going to be okay.

It's the vocabulary of empathy that I need to build - amongst my linguistically ones, because ultimately people communicate with each other with more than just words.

I've chosen to act differently today - to share my stories when someone is sharing with me how hard it is to work-study a degree at the same time. I've chosen to show support and belief in a friend who feels that his career is going nowhere because of a glass ceiling. I've chosen to be thankful that they confided in me, and not take that trust and betray it by instilling my opinions of them which may hinder their spiritual recovery. I've chosen to be kind - and it took me a long way to finally realise what it means to listen.

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