Empathy: Take a Walk in Their Shoes

By: Justine [Harmony|Communication|Futuristic|Empathy|Achiever]

Definition of the empathy strength: “To sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.” I have taken the CliftonStrengths for Students twice and both times empathy was one of my top strengths. Empathy to me means I am able to understand the feelings and motives of those who I come into contact with in my daily life.

List of strengths; empathy in gree

Understanding what others are feeling helps me to create a functioning work environment with all my other coworkers. To be able to empathize sometimes requires that you go through a similar experience or situation as someone else and you can recall your feelings during that time period. Another way to empathize is to just take the time to consider the perspectives of others. For example, in the workforce, to empathize with someone’s passions can be exciting because you can feel their energy about a new project or ambition and keep them motivated. In contrast, in times where a coworker has problems in their lives, a person can empathize to comfort and strategize with them to overcome obstacles.

As a future physical therapist and someone who works with clients, empathy can be difficult to balance as a strength. On one hand, being too empathetic can lead to no progress in their rehabilitation. We all have those moments where we aren’t particularly motivated to complete an action, however, when that action is paired with pain in movement it can be difficult to not over-empathize. Through my own personal physical rehabilitation, I’m able to understand the difficulties in working towards gaining mobility and strength back along with the frustrations that come along with not being able to do simple activities. When I train clients who have had injuries, I work with them through their pain with the best exercises to strengthen them and give them goals to aim for. In this way, their pain has a purpose; it’s a step towards better health. To give into over-empathizing would be to encourage a client or patient to remain motionless and avoid pain altogether, however, in the long run, that would only do them more harm than good.

Here are some career action items from the CliftonStrengths for Students book that might apply to you:

  • Interview people who are currently in jobs that interest you. Talk to them about how they feel in those roles.
  • Environments that provide regular social interaction and an opportunity to collaborate with others will allow your Empathy talents to flourish.
  • Seek work environments in which emotions are valued and not repressed. The rich emotional economy will be the perfect environment for your Empathy talents.
  • The “emotional tone” of your work environment is important. You might find that surrounding yourself with others who are positive and upbeat is highly rewarding.

Not everyone will work with patients or customers on a first-hand basis, but all of us can take some time to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. If you run across someone who is less than friendly to you, there is most likely a reason for their attitude, although it might be hidden to you. Empathy is thinking about others’ life circumstances and thinking about how you would handle them. Empathy can take a lot of self-control and can be very frustrating when you aren’t able to see eye-to-eye with that other person but with patience and time, it’s worth it to use a little empathy. Who knows, you just might learn a new perspective.

Read about the 33 other Strengths

Read Justine’s other posts

2 thoughts on “Empathy: Take a Walk in Their Shoes

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