PDA

View Full Version : Can you teach people to have empathy?



Signor
06-29-2015, 03:44 PM
Empathy is a quality that is integral to most people's lives - and yet the modern world makes it easy to lose sight of the feelings of others. But almost everyone can learn to develop this crucial personality trait, says Roman Krznaric.

Open Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird and one line will jump out at you: "You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Human beings are naturally primed to embrace this message. According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathise wired into their brains - an in-built capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.

The problem is that most don't tap into their full empathic potential in everyday life.

You can easily find yourself passing by a mother struggling with a pram on some steps as you rush to a work meeting, or read about a tragic earthquake in a distant country then let it slip your mind as you click a link to check the latest football results.

The empathy gap can appear in personal relationships too - like when I find myself shouting in frustration at my six-year-old twins, or fail to realise that my partner is doing more than her fair share of the housework.

So is there anything you can do to boost your empathy levels? The good news is that almost everyone can learn to be more empathic, just like we can learn to ride a bike or drive a car.

A good warm up is to do a quick assessment of your empathic abilities. Neuropsychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has devised a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes in which you are shown 36 pairs of eyes and have to choose one of four words that best describes what each person is feeling or thinking - for instance, jealous, arrogant, panicked or hateful.

The average score of around 26 suggests that the majority of people are surprisingly good - though far from perfect - at visually reading others' emotions.

Going a step further, there are three simple but powerful strategies for unleashing the empathic potential that is latent in our neural circuitry.

Make a habit of "radical listening"
"What is essential,' wrote Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication, "is our ability to be present to what's really going on within - to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing at that very moment."

Listening out for people's feelings and needs - whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or a spouse who is upset at you for working late yet again - gives them a sense of being understood.

Let people have their say, hold back from interrupting and even reflect back what they've told you so they knew you were really listening. There's a term for doing this - "radical listening".

Radical listening can have an extraordinary impact on resolving conflict situations. Rosenberg points out that in employer-employee disputes, if both sides literally repeat what the other side just said before speaking themselves, conflict resolution is reached 50% faster.

Look for the human behind everything
A second step is to deepen empathic concern for others by developing an awareness of all those individuals hidden behind the surface of our daily lives, on whom we may depend in some way. A Buddhist-inspired approach to this is to spend a whole day becoming mindful of every person connected to your routine actions.

So when you have your morning coffee, think about the people who picked the coffee beans. As you button your shirt, consider the labour behind the label by asking yourself: "Who sewed on these buttons? Where in the world are they? What are their lives like?"

Then continue throughout the day, bringing this curiosity to who is driving the train, vacuuming the office floor or stacking the supermarket shelves. It is precisely such mindful awareness that can spark empathic action on the behalf of others, whether it's buying Fairtrade coffee or becoming friends with the office cleaner.

Bertolt Brecht wrote a wonderful poem about this called A Worker Reads History, which begins: "Who built the seven gates of Thebes? / The books are filled with the names of kings / Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?"

Become curious about strangers
I used to regularly walk past a homeless man around the corner from where I live in Oxford and take virtually no notice of him. One day I stopped to speak to him.

It turned out his name was Alan Human and he had a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. We subsequently developed a friendship based on our mutual interest in Aristotle's ethics and pepperoni pizza.

This encounter taught me that having conversations with strangers opens up our empathic minds. We can not only meet fascinating people but also challenge the assumptions and prejudices that we have about others based on their appearance, accents or backgrounds.

It's about recovering the curiosity everyone had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. Get beyond superficial talk but beware interrogating people. Respect the advice of oral historian Studs Terkel - who always spoke to people on the bus on his daily commute: "Don't be an examiner, be the interested inquirer."

These are the kinds of conversations you will find happening at the world's first Empathy Museum, which is launching in the UK in late 2015 and will then be travelling to Australia and other countries.

Amongst the unusual exhibitions will be a human library, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation - maybe a Sikh teenager, an unhappy investment banker or a gay father. In other words, the kind of people you may not get to meet in everyday life.
Empathy is the cornerstone of healthy human relationships.

As the psychologist and inventor of emotional intelligence Daniel Goleman puts it, without empathy a person is "emotionally tone deaf".

It's clear that with a little effort nearly everyone can put more of their empathic potential to use. So try slipping on your empathy shoes and make an adventure of looking at the world through the eyes of others.

Source
Reply

Login/Register to hide ads. Scroll down for more posts
Signor
06-29-2015, 05:53 PM
Perhaps,Now many can appreciate these two sayings which I've shared more than once.

In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt, that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. John Stuart Mill,On Liberty

It's easy to judge. It's more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow.Doe Zantamata
Reply

ardianto
06-30-2015, 04:49 PM
Empathy is not a something that can be taught in method of indoctrination , but a feeling that comes from awareness after someone feel, think, and understand. Only those who can think in wider perspective who can raise empathy in their heart.

Okay, I have a story.

One day when I was teenager. I drove my car with my daddy beside me. I intend to turn to a street. But then I saw a pedicab came from that street. I slowed my car, but I accelerate again and turned to that street. The pedicab driver looked shocked because he thought I would stop and let him pass. And immediately my dad scolded me "Why don't you stop and let him pass first?!!. He has a right to use this street too!!". I was just silent.

Time passed by. One day I drove my car and intend to turn to a street. But a pedicab came from that street. I stopped my car, smile at the pedicab driver and gave a sign with my hand that he could pass first. The pedicab driver nodded politely and smile at me when he passed in front of my car. Honestly, I felt a happiness that suddenly appeared in my heart.

My dad anger made me thinking, how if I were in that pedicab driver position and someone else in my position. I tried to imagine what I would see. At first I saw stupidity of careless car driver. But then I tried to imagine with the wider perspective and I saw something that made me ashamed, arrogance of the rich.

Yeah, as a man who was born in upper-middle class family I got many easiness. I guess, if everyone could choose their birth, they would choose to be born in a family like mine. But no one could choose birth. Some, or even many, people were born in poor families and it made then live in poverty. And unfortunately too, there are people who were born in luck like me who don’t realize it. So, they look down on people who are not lucky like them.

Many people think that the poor just need money or food without realize that poor people are human too and want to be treated as human, just like the rich. They don't want just be given money but then ordered to go away. They indeed need aid, but they will be very happy if this aid is given by people who are willing to smile at them, willing to listen to them, willing to sit with them without feel higher. This is what will make them feel that they are human too, this is what will relieve their weight as the poor.

I realize it after I interact closer with them. Close interaction is one thing that can raise empathy in the people heart. So we do not just teach our children to give donation to poor people, but we must also encourage our children to not hesitate to play together with the poor children.

Teach our children to be grateful with what they have. Teach them to not only look at the up side, but look at the down side where many people who are not so lucky like them are living. Teach our children about the greatest secret of birth which no one could choose birth. Encourage them to think what would happen to them if they were born as other people who are not lucky like them. In Shaa Allah, it will raise empathy in their heart.
Reply

ardianto
07-01-2015, 05:22 PM
Rain was falling when the school hours was over. So, me and some other boys took shelter next to school building. The wind was blowing and the weather was cold enough. Everyone silent, until I said something to the boy beside me. "Buddy, our fate is really sad. We have no parents, must live as street children, feel hungry and cold when rain". He looked at my face, then "Aah! your head is full of imagination!". I just smile.

Yes, I imagined myself as poor orphan who lived on the street. And indeed, this is my habit. I often imagine myself as someone else and try to see the world through this someone eyes.

Okay, bro, sis. Have you ever imagined yourself as someone else?. And can you feel something like felt by the person that you imagine?. It would be difficult if you are not in the same situation like the person that you imagine. You cannot feel the cold like a street child feel under the rain if you are in a warm room. You cannot feel the hungry that the poor feel if your stomach is full.

The common mistake of people when they try to 'put themselves on the others shoes' is follow method like actor. They choose a character and imagine themselves as this character. This not the right way, actually, because they still cannot really feel what the others feel. The right way is you feel something, and spontaneously imagine yourself as someone who really in that situation. Like I've written above. I felt hungry and cold, so I imagined myself as a boy who was in that situation, a street child.

Okay, do you want to train your empathy?. Ramadan is the right time. At the day, when you feel hungry and thirsty, you go to a restaurant and see the people who enjoy their eating. Stay there. In Shaa Allah, you can feel what the poor feel when he is hungry but nobody share him food.
Reply

Welcome, Guest!
Hey there! Looks like you're enjoying the discussion, but you're not signed up for an account.

When you create an account, you can participate in the discussions and share your thoughts. You also get notifications, here and via email, whenever new posts are made. And you can like posts and make new friends.
Sign Up
Scimitar
07-01-2015, 05:50 PM
Short answer - NO.

Scimi
Reply

MuslimInshallah
07-01-2015, 06:42 PM
Originally Posted by ardianto
The common mistake of people when they try to 'put themselves on the others shoes' is follow method like actor. They choose a character and imagine themselves as this character. This not the right way, actually, because they still cannot really feel what the others feel. The right way is you feel something, and spontaneously imagine yourself as someone who really in that situation. Like I've written above. I felt hungry and cold, so I imagined myself as a boy who was in that situation, a street child.
Assalaamu alaikum Ardianto,

(smile) Don't you think that perhaps both methods might be useful? It is my understanding that when professional actors try to get into a character, they look to draw on their own life experiences that can help them connect with the feelings of the character.

Whether taking the present moment to put yourself in another's shoes, or reaching back into past experiences to help us gain insight... don't you think that both methods could help us empathize?

Originally Posted by Scimitar
Short answer - NO.

Scimi
And assalaamu alaikum to you Scimitar,

Do you truly believe people cannot increase in knowledge and understanding during their lives, and become more empathetic? Because empathy is a key element of compassion, and we need compassion (rahma) if we are to enter Paradise... surely, our Creator has made it possible for us to increase in compassion, even if just a little?


(smile) Ramadan Kareem to you both. Thank you for posting even while it is harder to do so this month. It is enjoyable reading you.


May Allah, the Designer, Help us to increase in those qualities that bring us closer to Him.
Reply

Scimitar
07-01-2015, 07:25 PM
You can't be taught empathy...

...you can learn knowledge, but that doesn't guarantee empathy.

Simple.

You're assuming that anyone who reads the Qu'ran will automatically become enchanted in ways that make them empathetic to others.

I can prove that idea wrong.

Only those whom Allah guides through HIS mercy will attain a better understanding. Those who have corruptions in their heart and arrogance which doesn't let them fruit their efforts, won't have any understanding of what they read, let alone empathy - empathy is sooo far off in this regard that to assume as you have done is just plain stupid.

Sorry to call it like it is, but truth is truth.

Allah even tells you in the Qur'an that there are verses both literal and allegorical, and those who follow a perverse course will seek to interpret the allegorical - where is the empathy? WHERE?

Don't speak without knowledge.

Thank you.

Scimi
Reply

ardianto
07-01-2015, 08:31 PM
Originally Posted by MuslimInshallah
Assalaamu alaikum Ardianto,

(smile) Don't you think that perhaps both methods might be useful? It is my understanding that when professional actors try to get into a character, they look to draw on their own life experiences that can help them connect with the feelings of the character.

Whether taking the present moment to put yourself in another's shoes, or reaching back into past experiences to help us gain insight... don't you think that both methods could help us empathize?
Wa'aIaikumsalam MuslimInshallah. (smile)

In playing a role an actor should not be himself, but should be the person of the role that he play. And to do this, the actor usually would really try to get this experience. In example, if an actor would play a role as a footballer, then he would join the real footballer and get training together. You can find it if you read stories of the actors.

But not everyone is actor. The common mistake of people when they imagine themselves as the others is they still think as themselves. Try to ask people in this forum "If you were hungry and had no food, would you steal?". I guess, they would answer "No way! I prefer to die than steal!". But it's because they never really felt this experience. Different than those who ever had this experience. Although they do not suggest to steal, they can understand if someone steal because hungry.

Do I have experience which I must steal food because hungry?. Yes!, I've ever stolen corn from corn field because I was hungry. It's happened when me and my friend did off-road adventure and my car stuck in the mud, far from area where I could get food. This is why, if a poor person steal because he had no food or money and really hungry, I do not blame him, but I blame the rich among him who did not share their food.
Reply

ardianto
07-01-2015, 08:52 PM
Originally Posted by Scimitar
You can't be taught empathy...

...you can learn knowledge, but that doesn't guarantee empathy.

Simple.

You're assuming that anyone who reads the Qu'ran will automatically become enchanted in ways that make them empathetic to others.

I can prove that idea wrong.

Only those whom Allah guides through HIS mercy will attain a better understanding. Those who have corruptions in their heart and arrogance which doesn't let them fruit their efforts, won't have any understanding of what they read, let alone empathy - empathy is sooo far off in this regard that to assume as you have done is just plain stupid.

Sorry to call it like it is, but truth is truth.

Allah even tells you in the Qur'an that there are verses both literal and allegorical, and those who follow a perverse course will seek to interpret the allegorical - where is the empathy? WHERE?

Don't speak without knowledge.

Thank you.

Scimi
MuslimInshallah did not say that anyone who reads the Qu'ran will automatically become enchanted in ways that make them empathetic to others. But she said, our Creator has made it possible for us to increase in compassion, even if just a little. And it's true.

We are given a heart to make us able to feel love, compassion, and empathy. But unfortunately, not all of us have clean heart to feel it. Yeah, bad experience could cause anger that will cover our heart, and it prevent our heart to feel love, compassion, and empathy.

My brother, I understand if you are angry for what you have experienced. But why must you keep your anger?. Try to remove your anger. In Shaa Allah, then love, compassion and empathy will come to your heart.

:)
Reply

Scimitar
07-01-2015, 09:31 PM
Bro, empathy is an emotion, it follow no logic, nor educative principle - we cannot learn empathy from others - it comes from within our own ability to understand or humanity.

There is no anger, just straight up logic I am giving.

It surprises me that we make excuses for learning empathy when the truth is empathy is something which "grows". Not a learned thing at all.

Scimi
Reply

ardianto
07-02-2015, 02:45 PM
As I've said in the beginning of my first post, empathy is not something that can be taught in method of indoctrination. We cannot teach empathy in the way like we teach math or English. But we still can teach empathy in indirect way, through understanding.

Two weeks before Ramadan I rode public transport car. When the car passed a slum area few elementary school students stopped the car. They were accompanied by their teacher, a young hijabi woman. When they entered the car I noticed their badges. They were from expensive elementary school which known as school for the rich. It made me wonder.

But then when they started to discuss in the car I began to know that they just back from visiting a "free school for poor children" in that slum area. The teacher asked them "What you realize after you visited that school?." One student answer "I am far luckier than them". The teacher asked again "Do you feel grateful of what you have?". All students said yes. And then they started to tell their ideas of what they could do for children in that free school.

That was one way to teach empathy to the children. Seeing a reality of social life and try to understand something. And I guess, they rode public transport car because their teacher wanted them to feel the life of 'ordinary people'.

Empathy indeed, is something that "grows", and actually everyone has ability to grow empathy in the heart. However, ability to grow empathy is varies. There are people who have high ability to grow empathy, there are people who have low ability. This ability is very influenced by some factors like life experience, family upbringing, social environment, culture, etc. Someone who was raised and educated in indoctrinate method would have low ability to grow empathy, while someone who trained to think and understand something will have high ability to grow empathy.
Reply

MuslimInshallah
07-02-2015, 07:19 PM
Assalaamu alaikum Scimi,

(smile) I think you are misunderstanding me rather profoundly. And I think you are misunderstanding Ardianto a little, too. (smile) And perhaps Ardianto and I have been misunderstanding one another. (smile) The title of the thread can be understood in more than one way, too...

I do not believe in coercive learning environments. (smile) We are homeschoolers of a pretty relaxed variety, you know! Of course you can't "make" someone learn empathy. A person has to want to learn empathy. And of course, if you choose to try to increase your empathy for others, it is only by Allah's Will that you will be able to do so.

But I do believe that if a person with low empathy decides to change his life and open his heart... that there are ways that he can actively work on this. I have read of such techniques. And we've tried some out.

What I have also tried to express is the idea that the best Teacher of empathy is, actually, Allah. I believe that the various experiences in life that He Gifts us with are learning opportunities that He Provides us with. (smile) But of course, we are free to learn from these moments... or not. (smile) Hardship and suffering can teach us. But so can kindness and love.

(pensively) I have found that when faced with emotional suffering, some people decide to cut off their hearts in order to stop feeling pain. And in a way, this works. The immediate pain is muted. (sigh) But the problem is that this muting also mutes our inner connection with God, and we tend become more and more unkind with others. (pensively) And there is another side effect, I find, and this is that the heart that is muted feels a subtle long-term pain. Because it hurts not to feel Allah in/through our hearts. And so the person who has deadened his heart to feeling (and thereby muted his connection with his Creator) feels a deep and terrible pain. When the Qur'an says, repeatedly, that the darkened harm themselves, I think this deep pain is part of this harm. So choosing the route of numbing the heart to avoid emotional pain... does not even work, in the long run. (smile) This is a little sidebar, perhaps, but it is a thought that has percolated in my mind over time. It is how I understand why some people are weak in empathy. And why they are unkind to others. A person who doesn't feel your pain, and who feels a deep inner pain himself... well, it makes a curious kind of sense why they may hurt you.

(smile) But to get back to the idea that empathy is something we can learn (if we want to be taught)... I believe that when we meet another person, we can reach back into our own experiences, to help us to empathize with that person. (smile) Of course, each person being unique, and having somewhat different experiences, means that we can't 100% feel another person's situation... but our experiences can perhaps give us an imperfect taste. Like Ardianto feeling hungry and stealing a little food. Now he has a little understanding of hunger. And of the desire to steal to assuage that hunger. And if he comes across a person who steals for hunger... he can reach back to his own experience, and feel a little echo of understanding.

When Ardianto speaks of taking wealthier children to visit less wealthy children, I think this is a valid way to help us empathize a little with others. I don't believe that this will awaken a heart that choses darkness. But it can help healthy hearts to understand another a little better, I think.


Thank you both for your comments. (smile) I do like stories, Ardianto! My favourite teaching/learning method. And Scimi... peace brother.


May Allah, the Repeatedly Forgiving, have Mercy on our imperfect selves.
Reply

Scimitar
07-02-2015, 07:49 PM
this is all very theoretical :D and cannot be proven.

What I said was straight from observation - empathy grows. Can't be taught.

Simple,

Scimi
Reply

Signor
07-03-2015, 01:05 AM
I found this prayer by Azgraybebly Josland very much in line with posts written above.

May God give you a caring heart so that you can become a whole person, not just gifted with intellect that can understand, but with heart that truly cares and loves.

After all,Why not pray for both?
Reply

ardianto
07-03-2015, 03:09 PM
"Not wealth, power, or success in career that make you being respected. But the kindness that you do for the others that will makes the others respect you".

This is what taught to me since I was kid, and later I found, it's true. I have heard negative comments on some people like "He is rich, but unfortunately he is arrogant". And I also have heard positive comments on some other people like "He is rich, but always treat other people well without differentiate between the rich and the poor". It motivated me to learn to understand other people, because if I could understand other people's feeling, then I could prevent myself from hurting the others although unintentionally.

If we have willingness to understand the others with purpose to prevent us from hurting the others, then automatically empathy would grow up in our hearts.

So, can we teach people to have empathy?. Teach them the wisdom like that has taught to me.
Reply

Signor
07-03-2015, 03:40 PM
Empathy: A Trait that Can Transform Your Life

Empathy is a transformative character trait that positively enhances all areas of your life, including your personal well-being, family life and work relationships. Not many people know the power of empathy in enhancing their own personal well-being, as well as in changing the way they interact and feel about the world around them. In this article, we will discuss what empathy is, how it is encouraged in Islam and how you can use it to bring transformative change to your life.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand and share the feelings of others, like walking in someone else’s shoes.
Many times, without realising, our brains can interpret the emotions or feelings that we detect in others and copy them automatically. For example, if you see or hear of someone who hurt their finger, the areas of your brain associated with that pain gets activated, as if you can feel their pain. Humans are naturally tuned to show empathy; however, we can still actively try to develop this trait and use it in our day-to-day lives. A general example of empathy is if your friend is looking for a job but keeps receiving rejections, you might say to them: “Perhaps you feel disappointed and discouraged right now, is that right?” If you are right, your friend will feel relieved to hear someone understand his or her feelings accurately. It is essential as well as effective to empathize with a person before offering any sort of advice.

Empathy in Islam

Is empathy encouraged in Islam? Absolutely! Consider this Qur’anic verse about our beloved Prophet Muhammad :

There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 9, Verse 128]

Our Prophet would always feel our suffering and is praised by Allah for his empathetic nature.

The Prophet himself also encouraged us to feel empathy for each other, he was reported to have said: “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” [Bukhari]

This Qur’an describes believers as those who practice compassion, which is a form of empathy that moves one to help others.
And what can make you know what is [breaking through] the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding on a day of severe hunger, an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to compassion.” [Qur’an: Chapter 90, Verses 12-17]

One account of the Prophet’s empathy in action is when he was sitting in with his companions one morning, and members of a miserable tribe approached them. They had no shoes and their skin was stuck to their bones because of hunger. The Prophet became instantly moved upon seeing their condition and the color of his face changed. He had Bilal give the call to prayer and gathered his companions. After praying, they took up a collection for the tribe, generously helping them. [Muslim]

The Prophet even had care and empathy for animals
. Once, upon entering a garden, the Prophet saw a camel that was just skin and bones. Upon seeing it, the Prophet began crying, then he put his hand on its head until it was comforted. He said to the owner of that camel: “Don’t you fear Allah about this beast that Allah has given in your possession? It has complained to me that you keep it hungry and load it heavily which fatigues it.” [Abu Dawud] There is also the famous hadith about the Prophet’s empathy for mothers in the masjid, that was narrated by Anas bin Malik: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘I start prayer and I want to make it long, but then I hear an infant crying, so I make my prayer short, because I know the distress caused to the mother by his crying.’” [Ibn Majah]

How Showing Empathy Can Transform Your Life
Socially Showing empathy will improve your relationships and develop your character as a Muslim, because you will become a more compassionate and helpful person. When you show someone that you understand them, either by reflecting their feelings or summarizing what they’ve said, you bring instant comforting relief and peace to that person.

In the field of counselling, showing empathetic understanding is usually more helpful to a person in distress than giving them advice
. Dr. Carl Rogers, the founder of the Person-Centered Counselling Theory, did extensive research on using empathy in counselling. His research showed that empathy is a counsellor’s most powerful skill in bringing about growth in clients, and lack of empathy actually makes clients feel worse! Therefore, it is very effective to show empathy before thinking of offering advice.

Action Tip: The next time people you care about are feeling upset about a situation, rather than give advice, simply listen, and then try to reflect their feelings back to them to show you understand them accurately. Then notice how they respond. Empathy transforms your social relationships because it gives you a more accurate and deeper understanding of issues and conflicts. Empathy is a key trait to becoming a better spouse, parent, teacher and friend. Showing empathy at work enhances your professional relationships because you will begin to deal with your co-workers and clients by trying to first understand what they want, think and feel.

Personally We often think we understand ourselves well enough, but when you take the time to name your feelings and really clarify how you feel, you will be amazed at the relief and inner peace you feel within yourself!

Action Tip: The next time you are feeling a negative emotion of some kind, try being empathetic to yourself. Name the feelings that you are experiencing. Notice how just clarifying your inner thoughts and feelings helps you feel better! Similarly, daily journaling is a great habit to do regularly as a way of long-term self-reflection and emotional wellness.

How To Develop Your Empathy
Empathy is a trait that improves with time, and the more you develop this trait, the more it will benefit your life. Basically, when you make the intention to be empathetic with other people, your practice will in turn improve your empathic abilities. Dr. Carl Rogers describes being empathetic as an almost “mystical” experience, because it is as if you almost become the other person.

The first step is to make the intention to try to “walk in the shoes” of others. The next step is to understand yourself and your own feelings better. The better you understand your inner world, the better you will understand the inner world of others. Realize that your life experiences help you to develop your empathy, so make a point to use your life experiences to improve this trait.

Action Tip: The next time you have an experience that arouses strong emotions of some kind, tell yourself to use this experience to become more empathetic. For example, the next time you are very sick, notice your feelings of perhaps hopelessness or negativity (or any other feeling). Make a mental note of this experience and use it to feel empathy for other ill people in the future!

The purpose of showing empathy is to improve your life along with the lives of others, by spreading compassion, care and comfort. Being empathetic does not mean that we put the needs of others above our own needs. Empathy is a tool that we use to make more effective decisions and to show that we care.

Source
Reply

Signor
07-03-2015, 04:02 PM
Empathy in Marriage: How to Connect Emotionally with Your Spouse

We are all aware that the marital relationship is regarded as extremely important in Islam. In addition to fulfilling half our deen, marriage is a safeguard, a place to find peace, and also a strongly recommended sunnah.


Our Prophet Muhammad said:
“Marriage is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me.” [Ibn Majah]

But why is it that so many Muslims are dissatisfied with this huge part of their lives and religion? I think it is because our marriages lack empathy, or in other words, emotional understanding. Empathy is simply the act of feeling your spouse’s emotions; joining emotionally with him or her, as if “walking in his or her shoes.”

I will discuss how Islam encourages empathy in marriage, how it can transform your marriage, and how you can practice it yourself to improve your relationship with your spouse In sha Allah!

Emotions within marriage in the Qur’an

The Holy Qur’an reminds us about the importance of emotions in marriage:
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Qur’an: Chapter 30, Verse 21]

“It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her.” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 189]

As we can see from the above verses, marriage is ideally meant to be a source of emotional comfort to us. Marriage allows us to experience love, mercy, understanding and peace from someone who is a companion for life.

Empathy in marriage in Islam
Our blessed Prophet showed emotional understanding towards his wives in many ways. He was known to express his love unabashedly for his wives and showed us several examples of how to kindly and thoughtfully treat our spouses.

Consider the following ahadith:

1. His wife, Aisha , narrated:
“It was the day of `Id, and the Ethiopian people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, “Carry on! O Bani Arfida,” till I got tired. The Prophet asked me, “Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?” I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave.” [Bukhari]
This hadith shows that our beloved Prophet considered his wives’ emotional need for happiness and enjoyment through halal entertainment.

2. Al-Aswad said:
“I asked ‘A’isha ‘What did the Prophet, do when he was with his family?’ She replied, ‘He would do chores for his family, and when it was time for the prayer, he would go out.'” [Bukhari]
This hadith shows that our beloved Prophet helped his family with their chores, indicating that he was always thoughtful and cared about easing things for his family in any way he could.

3. Narrated by Anas :
“It reached Safiyyah that Hafsah called her: ‘The daughter of a Jew,’ so she (Safiyyah) wept. Then the Prophet entered upon her while she was crying, and he said: ‘What makes you cry?’ She said: ‘Hafsah said to me that I am the daughter of a Jew.’ So the Prophet said: ‘And you are the daughter of a Prophet, and your uncle is a Prophet, and you are married to a Prophet, so what is she boasting to you about?’ Then he said: ‘Fear Allah, O Hafsah.'” [Tirmidthi]
Our beloved Prophet cared about the feelings of his wives and would console them with humor and caring words, without hurting anyone in the process.

How empathy benefits your marriage
When you practice empathy in your marriage, you will transform your marriage into a stronger, more real and more enjoyable union. Spouses will actually know and love each other for who they truly are In sha Allah, when they are able to bond at an emotional level.

Most people agree that open communication is the cornerstone of a healthy marriage. However, marriage therapists believe that ordinary communication is not enough. What a marriage really needs to thrive is emotional understanding, or empathy.

Usually, the more recognized problems in a marriage are only surface issues. Couples need to dig deeper to uncover the real underlying problems in their marriages. These tend to be emotional problems, such as not feeling respected or not feeling appreciated.

Furthermore, empathy can save your marriage from infidelity problems. Megan Wyatt, life coach and founder of wivesofjannah.com, teaches that the no.1 reason that marriages face infidelity problems is a lack of emotional connection.

How can we practice empathy in our marriages?

1. Empathizing with others starts with self-empathy
Train yourself to be more aware of your own feelings. This in turn will help you recognize the feelings of your spouse and will also improve your communication. Your ability to feel empathy towards your spouse depends on how much empathy you are able to show to yourself.

Example: A wife realizes that she is feeling unhappy because her husband seems too tight with the family budget. She respects her husband’s desire to save money, but she also feels that he is unnecessarily frugal. She decides to address the issue and talk to her husband about her mixed feelings, while showing understanding of her husband’s point of view.

2. Recognize and validate your spouse’s feelings
When your spouse is emotionally distraught, show that you understand your spouse’s feelings. Your spouse wants to feel heard and understood by you. You play one of the most important parts in their lives, so what you say to them matters immensely.

Action tip: When your spouse is sharing his or her feelings, show that you understand by naming their feelings. For example one could say, “I understand that you feel hurt right now.”

While doing this, resist the urge to give advice or a solution. That is not what they are after. They simply want someone to relate to them.

True story: A friend of mine had been feeling resentful towards her husband because he never showed any caring or understanding when she talked to him about the pain of her father’s death when she was a child. Finally, she told him how upset she felt about his lack of empathy for her loss. Eventually, her husband validated her feelings by visiting her father’s grave with her, which transformed her resentment into love.

3. Help your spouse empathize by genuinely expressing your feelings
Your spouse is not a mind reader. Share your thoughts and feelings about your inner world. Even if you are not sure how you feel, you can and should share your mixed feelings with your spouse till you are both able to understand your feelings better.

Example: Many Muslim couples struggle with issues of physical intimacy in their marriages. They may feel shy to talk about their physical intimacy problems, but how will your spouse know what you truly think and feel about this topic if you do not tell them?

4. Use empathy during disagreements
As mentioned above, self-empathy is extremely important in resolving conflicts with your spouse. If you are feeling angry, you should be aware of your anger and wait until you feel calmer before talking to your spouse.

Narrated by Abu Huraira :
A man said to the Prophet , “Advise me! “The Prophet said, “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.” [Bukhari]
Action tip: The next time you are feeling a negative feeling, such as anger, remind yourself that this is not the time to talk to your spouse. Wait until you feel calmer to discuss issues with your spouse.

When you are calm enough to talk about disagreements with your spouse, strive to empathize with him or her. Ideally, you should summarize his or her point of view to show that you truly understand, before trying to make your case.

Real counselling technique: Many therapists ask family members to talk about an issue from the point of view of another family member. The goal there is to build empathy and to “feel” the issue from the other person’s perspective. Practicing empathy is a way to show that you care about your spouse.

Therefore, by practicing empathy you will be able to build a deeper relationship with your spouse, handle conflicts with more understanding and be loved for who you truly are, In sha Allah.

I hope that this article will help us actualize this Qur’anic verse in our marriages:
“Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” [Qur’an: Chapter 25, Verse 74]

Source
Reply

Hey there! Looks like you're enjoying the discussion, but you're not signed up for an account.

When you create an account, you can participate in the discussions and share your thoughts. You also get notifications, here and via email, whenever new posts are made. And you can like posts and make new friends.
Sign Up

IslamicBoard

Experience a richer experience on our mobile app!