The Power Of Empathy

From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (September 2011):

“If you want to influence them, you have to be willing to understand empathetically the power of their point of view and the emotional force with which they believe in it.”

~ Roger Fisher and William Ury,
from “Getting To Yes”



?????????????????????????The ability to step into someone else’s shoes to better understand what they’re thinking, feeling and desiring is key to effectively resolving interpersonal conflict. In essence, it acknowledges that we’re aware of the other person’s feelings and needs, just as we are of our own. It’s a way of saying: “you matter.” It demonstrates that we care, helps everyone relax and increases the chances of a win-win outcome.

An empathetic response to conflict is always a wise choice. Yet, at times, it can be difficult to extend ourselves for another person, especially when we’re upset with them. However, the more challenging the situation, the greater the need there is for better understanding. So, if we want to preserve a relationship, we need to access the wisdom to handle the matter more intelligently and gracefully.

Yet, how do we do that when we’re bothered?

One of the easiest ways is to remind ourselves that calming down and listening fully to the other person actually increases the chances that our needs will be met, too. It’s called “enlightened self interest.” When most individuals experience the feeling of being seen, heard and understood, they are usually more willing to extend the same “gift of understanding” for the other party, too.

By responding empathetically not only are we likely to have a more positive influence on the outcome, we’ll also greatly increase the odds of a win-win – and will probably build a greater relationship!


This week’s practice:

Consider seeing the world through the eyes of the person you’re in conflict with. Notice what your tendency is when you’re upset and bothered by someone else’s behavior. Do you slip into self-preservation mode? Do you tend to want to prove that you’re right and that the other person is wrong? Do you unconsciously seek to protect only your own needs and interests? If so, might you be willing to stop and switch gears and see if there is perhaps a gift hidden here; a benefit for you, too?

Even if you don’t get all your needs, chances are you’ll learn and grow from the experience!


movie roll iconWatch a short video of Mary discussing
“Fight-Flight” response.

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