I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about what qualities make a good friend, partner and actually even someone you’d choose as a trainer. There are the obvious choices:
- Sense of Humor
- Shared Interest
- Intelligence and Knowledge
Recently there’s another quality I’ve added to the list and that’s Empathy. The definition for empathy from Dictionary.com
em·pa·thy [em-puh-thee] – noun
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
I’ll give you some examples!
As a trainer – while I may have never really struggled with a serious weight issue – how good would I be if I could not empathize with clients who do? While I can’t fully know how it feels to care 40 extra pounds I can relate to working towards a goal that at times feels impossible. I can relate to not feeling good about myself and struggling to get started. I can relate to the pressures to fail because it’s easier. If I couldn’t empathize with my clients, I don’t think I could honestly and successfully motivate them. If I didn’t have empathy I might find myself criticizing clients for not working hard enough or caring enough because the weight is coming off slowly.
As a friend – when I see my friend hurting because of a failed relationship or fertility struggles I can relate to how I would feel if what I really wanted was taken from me. I may not have had the same experiences but I can still listen and put myself in their shoes. I had a friend a couple years ago upon hearing about the end of my relationship – a relationship I was truly invested in – say to me “C’est la vie- on the the next I suppose”. That’s lack of empathy. She could not see how much I was hurt by the situation or realize how her callous words made matters worse. Overtime, this lack of empathy has changed our friendship to more of acquaintances.
In a relationship, having empathy allows us to better connect and relate with a partner. It’s inevitable we don’t always like or want the same things. We have our own opinions but having empathy allows us to understand why our partner may like, want or feel a certain way. We don’t have to agree but we should aspire to try to understand.
Here are some examples of lack of empathy that I have encountered recently:
- A Yoga instructor criticizing a student for his lack of flexibility and pushing him to ‘try harder’
- A friend changing plans at the last minute without regard to how this will affect the others involved.
- A client cancelling at the last minute because something fun popped up.
Empathy is something I plan on working on … it’s a quality I think is important. I don’t have to agree but I should at least try to understand how my actions and words may affect another person and understand where they are coming from. I’d rather surround myself with a few good empathetic people than a bunch of sometimes considerate people. How do you feel about Empathy?