“In the Shoes of Others”

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

Good mental health depends on many elements, some personal such as inborn traits and/or learned skills and other factors that depend on the social environment where we develop and where interpersonal relationships play a fundamental role for our psychological well-being. To have success in this process, there must be understanding and respect for the other person.

Precisely, that attribute of understanding what the other person feels is known as empathy. According you the Merriam-Webster [1] , empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”.

For Verywellmind website [2] , there are three types of empathy: Affective empathy, as the ability to respond to other people’s emotions appropriately; somatic empathy, as the ability to feel what another person is feeling; and cognitive empathy, as the ability to understand someone’s response to a situation.

There is something very important, and that is that empathy goes beyond emotions, since it is also a neurological process. As stated by Kamila Jankowiak-Siuda, Krystina Rymarczyk and Anna Grabowska in their article “How We Empathize With Others: A Neurological Perspective [3] ” published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information and other science magazines: “Empathy allows us to internally simulate the affective and cognitive mental states of others. Neurobiological studies suggest that empathy is a complex phenomenon, which can be described using a model that includes 2 modes of processing: bottom-up and top-down.”

Therefore, it is considered that empathic people enjoy interacting with others more, they are more altruistic because the love and concern for the other awaken the desire to help and act according to the feeling of pain of suffering of the other, and that leads them put their self in the other place [4] .

So, it is necessary to review the way in which we relate to others. For example, if we are selfish; if we are judging people from our perspective; if we don’t understand others; if we are aggressive when we communicate; if we do not have patience; if we have prejudices about someone or something; if we develop  relationships with others based on our self-interest; when someone is hurt, not feeling remorse or guilt; or if we are a person with low empathy or apathetic. We should work on improving.

How can we be more empathic? Become curious about people you do not know, focus on similarities rather than differences, and put yourself in someone’s shoes, listen, but also share, connect with social action movements and get creative with it [5] .

We can take a breath for a moment before making a judgment and think about the reasons that the other person has to act or feel in a certain way, maybe he or she could be having a bad day. It is more empathetic if you seek to open the dialogue and offer your attention, asking “How are you?”; “How do you feel?”. Avoid reprimanding or correcting, you can instead mention the emotion that you think you are experiencing, in this way you will make the person talk more, striving every day to “put yourself in the shoes of others”, you will be able to understand anyone.







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