What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
“There are two kinds of support we can offer when we’re helping someone: sympathy or empathy. In both cases, we can show that we are listening to someone by leaning our body slightly forward and toward the person, by looking at the person’s face and giving them our full attention while they are talking, and by nodding occasionally to show that we are hearing them.
We can also keep a kind expression on our face and repeat to the person what we heard them say when the time is right. For example, you can say, ‘You’re mad you have homework when you’d rather be hanging out.’ You can also say things like, ‘I’m so sorry.’
But empathy takes sympathy a little further by showing how deeply we understand. Usually, this means that something very similar has happened to you and you really do feel what the person feels when you realize the situation they’re in. You could say, ‘That happened to me once, and it made me so mad.’
Even if we haven’t been in a similar situation, we can still feel and show empathy by looking at the situation the way another person sees it.”
One of the most common obstacles to empathic relationships is that effective listening is difficult, and often individuals don’t listen to one another in conversation. We designed the HEAR strategy to help students recognize and block out that noise as they devote their attention to listening to one another. The HEAR strategy consists of these steps:
Halt: Stop whatever else you are doing, end your internal dialogue on other thoughts, and free your mind to give the speaker your attention.
Engage: Focus on the speaker. We suggest a physical component, such as turning your head slightly so that your right ear is toward the speaker as a reminder to be engaged solely in listening.
Anticipate: By looking forward to what the speaker has to say, you are acknowledging that you will likely learn something new and interesting, which will enhance your motivation to listen.
Replay: Think about what the speaker is saying. Analyze and paraphrase it in your mind or in discussion with the speaker and other classmates. Replaying and dialoguing the information you have heard will aid in understanding what the speaker is attempting to convey.