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Empathy Tips

May 2 to 8 is the CMHA’s Mental Health Week. This year’s theme is empathy.

Here are Empathy tips on how to have that difficult conversation with your parent or loved one about getting care and support with their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s):

Developing an empathic approach is perhaps the most significant effort you can make toward improving your people skills. When you understand others, like your parents or loved ones, they’ll probably want to understand you and listen to you better– and this is how you can start to build cooperation, and collaboration.

Empathy is simply recognizing emotions in others and being able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” – understanding the other person’s perspective and reality.

If you see everything through your own eyes, you will never understand other people’s points of view. This article will help you relate to others and learn how to understand and possibly influence them.

Difficult people or people who are not open to hearing another side are unlikely to see themselves as the problem, so you need to understand them. Then, armed with knowledge, you can decide on your strategy for changing the nature of your relationship. Here are a few things to consider:

Don’t rush. Take time to react and understand the other person’s wants and needs, the system in which you are operating, and the context. Don’t make this an interrogation; have a conversation.

Respond. Personalize your approach.

Create a dialogue. Invite emotions to be revealed because behaviour is only the tip of the iceberg – what lies under the surface are beliefs, attitudes, and motivation that you need to understand.

Spot the emotions. Emotions drive behaviour. Try to pick up on feelings of hurt, fear, anger, sadness, shock, frustration, confusion, etc.

Dissipate anger. Let them talk anger out of their system.

Listen actively. Understand what’s behind the words you hear.

Check their learning style. Ask yourself whether their preferred learning style is audio, visual or kinesthetic. Match their preference. Watch for a clue in their eye movements: visual people tend to look up; audio people look to the side; kinesthetic types tend to cast their eyes down.

Replay and check. Explain back to them what you understand them to be saying. Check that you are both on the same wavelength.

Authors Christene Cronin, Emotional Intelligence Coach and The Institute of Social & Emotional Intelligence