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Empathy, More than a Social Skill

When I began my studies in journalism, the Psychology of Communication professor, Amalia Carroz, developed a topic in which she dealt with 'empathy' in detail. Her analysis and educational didactics allowed me to root the concept in such a way that in this episode, I want to talk about this transcendental communication skill and social ability, which is also an important part of emotional intelligence.

Putting yourself in the shoes of others, understanding their needs, feelings and problems, that is empathy. Easily said for some, but for others, not so much. Empathy starts from recognizing that each person is, in himself, a story. Understanding that, each personal story is written according to the factors that influence them through life.

Empathy is learned. It grows as we get to know ourselves and our emotions, our inner self. It is very well-known that, one cannot give what one do not have! In other episodes, I have mentioned how valuable it is not to judge others according to our ideas, perspectives or beliefs. Judging others implies, we believe that only our point of view is correct. We measure others according to our own measuring system of what is correct versus what is not. The point is that, each person has their own standards and systems to measure right or wrong, to live, to act. And, they are determined by factors or circumstances that influence them through life. Biological factors with which we are born; life experiences; family history and cultural characteristics such as nationality and race make us unique and define who we are, how we behave, our decisions and our path. Our place is to understand that no one has walked our footsteps and that we have not walked their footsteps either, therefore, our experiences, feelings and points of view will be very different. To respect and understand those differences is to be empathetic. In the episode, 'The Value of Diversity', I say diversity reflects multiplicity. It should unite, not separate. As we value it, we gain personal growth, information and experience. Thus, in communication por example, empathy leads to a synchrony between the one who speaks and the one who listens and in which both feed off each other and grow in many different ways, in perception of the other, in understanding, intellectually. Communication and interpersonal relationships are very complex because they encompass feelings, thoughts, ideas and attitudes. And, communication is not only verbal, but it is also corporal. So, as you are talking with your voice, you are also speaking with your face, hands, eyes. All your body is sending the message. Your place as a listener is to get those signals, understand them, and respond. The way you respond is up to you. Empathy is crucial for assertive communication. Again, empathy helps us to listen to the other and to respect different thinking. Accepting what the other thinks and feels, recognizing that every experience is valuable and that they are opportunities for personal and intellectual growth and rapprochement with the other. The truth being said is that empathy and assertive communication go hand in hand. It is listening and understanding. Not only listening, not only speaking. Communication needs a meaning, a reason why. Otherwise, it's only noise, sounds, letters in the wind. Active listening allows us not only to understand the message of the speaker, but to also put ourselves in the other's place with an attitude, free of prejudice. The one who speaks tries to make the other person, from who he is, understand. Empathy allows us to know and understand our interlocutor from what the other person is. As an empathic person, knows himself and recognizes his weaknesses, he communicates from himself, but with the shoes of his interlocutor. He is tolerant, does not criticize or judge. Actively listening with the ability to put himself in another's shoes. He advises and recommends if requested, and does it so with humility. Understanding that each person is and thinks differently. Puerto Rican psychologist Veroshk Williams says that, to communicate with empathy it is necessary to forget who is right with the idea that it is not a matter of being right or wrong, avoiding confrontation, how? Accepting to disagree. In such a way, in this globalized world in which we live thanks to the internet and its multiplicity of platforms, it is increasingly imperative to develop empathy and perfect it, as well as learning to communicate assertively. To develop empathy, we must start by understanding ourselves. Then listening to others, understanding them and conveying our support. Do not judge others and on the contrary, be understanding and respectful. Agree to disagree. WE would never know what others have been through.


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