forget to be empathic with people you dislike or with whom you are
having a conflict. Empathy not only calms the other person but you will
discover that every human being, even the very worst, is
understandable when you see the world the way he/she does.
Watch out for the barriers to good, active listening. Guard against
advising, questioning, analyzing, judging, interrupting, etc. Be
accepting of all feelings; private feelings don't hurt anyone. Remember
empathy is a brief response aimed at the gut (or heart--feelings), like
"it's really upsetting," "you can't figure out what to do," "it seems like
there is no way to win," and "it really seems unfair." It is also
important to build your "feelings" vocabulary so you can use words
different from those the talker has used, but which connote the same
meaning. That's another special skill. When you think you understand
the other person's emotions very well, then give an empathy response
that aids the talker's self-understanding, perhaps in this form: "You
feel ______ because _______ ." Practice, practice, practice. It might
also be neat to keep a diary of your experiences establishing deeper,
helping relationships with others.
A true friend is a person to whom you can pore out your heart, grain and chaff together,
into his/her patient hands and know that he/she will faithfully and gently blow the chaff
away, then see clearly the essence of what you meant to say.
Probably a few hours role-playing with friends would be enough to
get the hang of empathy responding and to become aware of your old
established habits of interacting by using questions, judging the
goodness or badness of the talker, focusing on what you can say next,
thinking of a good argument against the point being made, etc.
However, it is hard to give up the old attitudes and social habits.
That's why so much practice in real life is necessary. In fact, it is hard
to estimate how much time is involved in becoming a good empathizer
because sharpening this skill is a never-ending task. But, if you
practice every day, you will certainly notice significant changes in your
intimate interactions in a week or two. We can never reach perfection
because human behavior is so complex, individuals so different,
relationships so intricate, and psychological knowledge so extensive.
The more you know, the better you get.