What To Look For When You Fall Into A Hole

Joe is walking down a street when he falls in a hole.

The walls are so steep he can’t get out.

A doctor passes by, and Joe shouts up “Hey you! Can you help me out?”

Don’t look for sympathy

The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole, and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and Joe shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?”

The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.

Then a friend walks by. “Hey Larry, it’s me, can you help me out?”

Look for empathy

And the friend jumps in the hole!

Joe says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!”

And Joe’s friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

Empathy goes deeper

Sympathy is feeling sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters.

Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. Becoming that person for a while.

Sticking with it

Sympathy is an expression of, “That’s bad, and I know it’s bad. But now that I’ve acknowledged your tough situation, it’s time to move on.”

But empathy encourages you to double down and explore the why and how of the situation.

When you do that it leads to more intuitive and creative solutions.

Sticking to them

Empathy is about acknowledging the biases of your tribe and the point of view of others. And then genuinely imagining and feeling what it’s like to be in their shoes.

You’re putting yourself right there, in the thick of their emotion.

Empathy fuels emotional connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.

How to find more empathy

There are four qualities we can develop to increase our empathy:

Shift perspective
That is the ability to take the perspective of another person. Or recognize their perspective as their truth.

Turn off judgment
That means refusing to judge others’ motives, emotions, actions. Not easy when you enjoy judging people as much as most of us do.

Sense feelings
Recognizing emotion in other people. Understanding how emotion goes beyond what people say. We have to discover what they feel.

Connect emotionally
Communicating emotion back to them. What we do should focus on connections. Connecting emotionally with tribe members. Connecting tribe members to each other. And finally, connecting them to others to bring new people into the tribe.

Empathy is a choice

Feeling empathy seems to come more naturally to some people. But that isn’t because they have some innate empathic personality trait.

It’s because they have made a choice.

We can choose to start seeing things from another perspective. We can choose to see things through another person’s eyes.

In return, we get to experience real growth. Growth that comes from feeling new emotions and taking on new and unique viewpoints.

Empathy is feeling with people

So empathy is a choice you make.

But it’s a vulnerable choice.

Because to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.

That’s why true empathy is so difficult to gain. And even harder to practice.

But gain it we must. Practice it we must. Because right now our world is in a deep hole. And we are all in need of empathy as never before.