In a previous post, I wrote about how I use the Deliberative strength from the StrengthsQuest assessment. For this post, I’ll focus on another strength in my top five: Empathy, my number one strength.
Those with the Empathy strength are able to sense how those around them are feeling and can take on those feelings as their own. They instinctively understand others, and can see things from their perspective. To clarify, empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for others – it is a more surface-level action. Empathy is a deeper sense of understanding the situation of another and feeling with them rather than for them.
Empathy can be very beneficial, but it also needs to be “controlled.” It is easy for empaths to become overwhelmed by the feelings of others, and if they don’t find a way to protect themselves, they can become incredibly drained. Here a few things I’ve learned about how to use your empathy rather than be controlled by it.
Learn to detach your life from the lives of others.
I’ll be the first to tell you this is ridiculously difficult. If someone I care about is struggling, that struggle will occupy my mind, too. But, you need to try to not feel guilty for allowing yourself to have your own feelings separate from another’s. It’s perfectly okay to compartmentalize and experience your own feelings and happiness even when those around you aren’t experiencing those same feelings. Think about it – if we all felt sadness at the sadness of others, our entire population would be down all the time. It’s not easy to release yourself from your empathic feelings, but it’s an important skill to learn.
Understand that not everyone has the same level of empathy as you.
Not everyone is empathic, and that’s okay. Feeling empathy is one of many ways a person can interact with those around them. As an empath, though, it can be difficult when you interact with others who don’t have the same empathic tendencies as you. Not everyone will be able to quickly and easily feel what you’re feeling and understand what you’re going through. For this reason, you need to be patient when you feel like others are being rude, inconsiderate, or insensitive toward you or someone else. That’s not necessarily the case – they probably just have a different set of strengths than you.
Find activities or a job that allow you to work with others.
While it’s important to learn how to flip your empathy switch off, it is also important to find opportunities where you can have it on and let it shine. Being an empath allows you to relate to others and work with them on a deeper or more meaningful level. Being able to pick up on a person’s feelings helps you adjust how you work with them to make the interaction more effective. Find a job or another space where you are allowed to do this, because the result can be incredibly rewarding.
Work in a place that has the energy you need.
Empaths can easily feed off of the energy of others, so it’s important to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the energy you need. For me, that means a positive, optimistic environment. I’ve worked in both positive and negative environments, and in both situations I have adopted the positivity or negativity that surrounds me. Living with constant negativity wears me down, while living with positivity helps me do my job to the best of my ability. Find a workplace where the energy matches your own and allows you to do your best work and enjoy it along the way. Happy surroundings make for a happy empath!
Of Possible Interest:
- Empathy: Take a Walk in Their Shoes
- StrengthsQuest (our blog posts about all 34 Strengths)
- Incorporating Strengths Into Your Resume