Does taking time to understand how someone else is feeling have to be a time-consuming endeavor? I believe the answer is “no”, but connecting with another person, especially in any depth, requires me to overlook myself. It seems to come naturally for us to think about ourselves first, but really, how much does it take to look beyond? Not much, just a single thought, remembering to ask about someone else and be invested in their response. I hate to admit it, but I often fall short, not intentionally, or because of time constraints but rather a lack of effort. Just recently, I consciously took the time to genuinely ask how someone was doing. The encounter left me more self-aware and more connected to my humanity. Really that’s what empathy is about; connectedness.
Getting connected requires a bit of work. Being straightforward and open is hard for all parties in conversation. Honestly, I don’t think very many of us share what we actually feel. Maybe that’s because of the in passing, casual nature of the question, ” How are you? “. I know I’m guilty of just turning up a smile and answering with “fine” . Does the fear of burdening others keep us from connecting to others, or is it really fear of being vulnerable? How can we share empathy if we don’t actually share? The answer requires a bit of introspection and therein lies the challenge. What am I willing to change about myself in order to be a more genuine and empathetic person?