The Importance of Empathy During COVID-19

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During these difficult and strange times that we are all facing, it is easy to lose sight of ‘how’ to give support to others when most of us are working from home.

How we show empathy can make all the difference. Empathy can be defined as having the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation, whilst not jeopardising our own feelings and or values.

When we empathise with someone, we understand how they might feel, can imagine what their emotional state is like, but we do not have to feel the same way.

  • Attentive listening skills will support the deliverance of empathy

Empathic listening via phone, facetime, teams, etc is different to face to face interaction, however we can still listen with empathy. Empathic listening is not just listening, it’s about actually hearing what is being said and understanding what the other person is trying to say.

  • Environment

Our environment can also encourage empathy, therefore being mindful of this is key. Consider if your environment is right for holding a conversation, taking into consideration external factors, for example – noise, where you are sitting (is it private), lighting, mobile phones etc. Internal factors – distractions, being hungry, requiring a toilet break, tiredness, headache can also impact the quality of your conversation and the ability to provide your full attention.

  • Asking questions

It’s best to start the conversation with an open and/or neutral question. Every person criticises and judges, but for empathic listening, it’s important to avoid this as much as possible and listen without any judgement. The person speaking should not just have the feeling that they are being understood; they also need to feel safe and consider the person they are speaking to, to be reliable.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to focus on the person you are speaking with during the conversation, and don’t let yourself be distracted. A common pitfall is that you start to give advice or share your opinion. This should be avoided!

  • The power of silence

Silence allows the person time to think, and reflect on what it is they want to say. It is not always easy to get the words out, so allowing that time is vitally important.

As the listener it allows you time to listen to what is not being said, the non-verbal communication that will support your counsel.