If your relationship is distressed or if you simply want to make a good relationship better, here are some ways to work on your empathy skills.
Listen for emotional messages. The emotional message isn’t the same as the words that your partner is saying. Your partner may be criticizing you for not spending enough time together, but the emotional message may actually be, “I miss you and I’m afraid I’m not important to you.”
Push the pause button on your own emotions. When your partner is expressing something critical, it’s easy to respond defensively. Before reacting, take a deep breath and try to slow down your own emotional response so you can hear the emotion behind the criticism.
Reflect back your partner’s emotional plea. Instead of coming back defensively with, “What are you talking about? We just went on a walk yesterday, and we went to dinner last weekend!” respond to your partner’s emotional plea by saying something like, “You really miss me and want to spend more time together. Thanks for letting me know. I love you.”
Even if you read the emotional message inaccurately, your effort to understand your partner’s emotions will pay off!
How important do you think empathy is in a relationship? How well do you empathize with others?
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