طراحی سایت

 

“Treat all people kindly as long as you want them to treat you kindly. Accept for them whatever you accept for yourself, and find unfavorable for yourself all that which you find unfavorable for others…”

-Imam Ali (peace be upon him)

 

When we speak about a set of abilities, which provide harmony, positive and effective attitude, in fact we are referring to life skills. These abilities enable individuals to admit their responsibilities without causing damage to themselves and others and also to encounter more effective with demands, expectations and daily problems, especially in their interpersonal relationships.

In previous issue we mentioned that self-awareness is the most important step in improving relationships. With self-awareness, an individual can accept the responsibilities of the relationship, and try for what is indeed valuable in our life. Self-awareness skills could enable us to understand others, better while preparing for empathy.

Reviewing the Islamic laws in more detail, we recognize that the behaviors that result in the proliferation of affection between the various segments of the population are considered either required (wajib) or recommended (mustahab), “God commands justice, goodness, and generosity towards relatives .” And what caused the resentment, is haram, and He forbids immorality, and injustice, and oppression. He advises you, so that you may take heed. ” In fact, these instructions are the definition of empathy.

Certainly one of the positive and valuable aspects of Islamic teachings is the extent of emphasis on creating; love and relatedness between humans, by creating some laws to make the strong emotional relationship among humans to maintain a life full of empathy.

 

But what is the definition of empathy in psychology?

The Ability in understanding and perception feelings, thoughts and beliefs of others is referred to as empathy. The meaning of empathy is not compassion or approval by others; in fact it is only the understanding, just the opposite of blaming. Generally, empathy leads to understanding of how others feel, think and believe, and helps to find what is precious to them.

We all have used the terms “you don’t understand me” or “we don’t get along” in our social and professional life, referring to our spouse, family members, friends and co-workers. And when we ask each side of the relationship, they believe that the problem is due to a lack of understanding from other person. Maybe in times of crisis, like grieves or illness of one, the one – sided empathy can be expected, but normally in order to maintain an effective communication, mutual empathy is required.

Not only this skill creates comfort for others due to deep understanding, but also makes us more passionate in our relationship with the others, and that means empathy has benefits for one’s self, others and the relationship.
Lack of empathy could easily make challenge and conflict between spouses, children, colleagues and etc. This is the reason for a lot of counseling clinic visits.

 

Why empathy?

Have a look at these examples:

  • “Omid” and his wife have problem over how to spend the holidays almost every weekend. Sometimes one of them is too tired to do any activities and sometimes lack of a joint plan is the challenge.
  • “Ashkan ” works in a marketing company, dealing directly with many people every day. He has some skills in communication, but these skills are not useful to attract and sell products to customers. Usually, people after speaking with “Ashkan,” appreciate him and leave him without buying anything.
  • “Sara” and ” Majeed ” have been married for several years, but if they do not have any dialogue about their children, there are almost no words exchanged between them. This has caused huge distance between them.
  • It is difficult for “Hediyeh” to speak about her feelings and beliefs with her mother. Despite her mother’s welcoming approach to have open conversation with “Hediyeh,” she has failed to share her secrets with her mom.

These examples show the lack of empathy between people under different conditions. As we have seen, if a sales associate fails to see the pros and cons of the product from the buyers’ perspective, he can’t convince them to buy that product.
Lack of empathy between partners causes unpleasant conversation, so they become far apart from each other and would not have a chance to recognize the interests of each other to solve their conflicts.

Also parents and children, due to differences between their age and experiences, sometimes cannot see things from each other’s point of view, which deprives them of knowing each other.
Lack of understanding, demands and conditions of others could easily break down the friendship and often lead to enmity. Perhaps that is why Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) said: “the best kindness and goodness is having empathy and companionship with religious brothers” .

Since empathy is a skill it can be developed by practice. At the beginning it could be a little difficult; however, remember that as a result of empathy, a safe and secure environment will be created, which creates a mutual empathy. The following items should be kept in mind for the purpose of maintaining empathy:

Self – awareness: as initially pointed out, with self-awareness people can understanding each other better.

Active listening: active listening is different from hearing; one of them is conscious, and another is without an intent. To improve empathy, one should practice active listening.

Expression of feelings: Expecting expression of feeling from opposite party in a relationship could result in both extortion and loss of trust amongst individuals.

Body language: don’t wait to hear someone’s request for empathy. Body language is often more clear than words. Note that you don’t have to have the ability of high rhetoric for empathy. Sometimes only your presence is enough.

Honesty: empathy without aiming to improve the relationship causes frustration and distrust.

Avoid giving advice: in most cases, giving advice and judgment means that we have more knowledge and we look at a higher position and it is clear that in this case empathy gets vanished.

 

Epilogue

During all stages of this journey, don’t forget that there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. To understand others better, we do not need to internalize their problems. According to Rogers (psychologist), “Empathy is understanding the feelings of others, as if they are our own feelings emphasizing on the meaning of expression ‘as if’.”

Understanding of your partner’s mood and behaviors, without any distraction, ignorance and defiance in a relationship has a major benefit. There will be no further arguments or waste of energy. Whoever feels other’s empathy, does not spend his/her energy to prove himself or herself in showing the feelings. As a result, the majority of unnecessary friction would be resolved and the chance of reaching agreements would be increased.

If empathy has been a weakness in your relationships so far, and you plan to improve it, keep in mind that you need to be determined, since this could be a sudden change for your partner and could take a while to build the trust; therefore be patient and consistent.

Despite the growing apparent prosperity in life, human-being has not yet achieved inner peace and the mental conflicts. Achieving the inner peace, satisfaction and happiness requires improving relationships and skills that are taught in various schools of thoughts. The rich Islamic teaching in this context is obvious to everyone and there are a lot of verses and hadiths (traditions) that insist on the significance of self-awareness; for example, Imam Sadiq (Peace Be Upon Him; PBUH) divided communication skills in life into four categories: “Interaction with the Creator, interaction with self, interaction with people and interaction with the universe” and has elaborated on each in detail. According to the Islamic teachings, the balance and the high quality of these interactions lead to increased levels of mental health; therefore, peace would be reachable.

However, modern psychology has also introduced the prevention-improvement methods in mental health with the theme of “life skills”. In the psychological definition, life skills include: ability to perform adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the problems and struggles of everyday life. Learning these skills helps people to protect themselves and the community they live in, from mental damage and promote mental health and make human being useful for themselves and the society. The majority of psychology and counseling clinics’ clients, who are beset of problems in their life or looking for solutions to enhance the quality of their life and relationships would be able to find new solutions by learning these skills.

I recall that once a woman in her thirties visited me and after explaining here problems, she asked me to give her a solution; perhaps this story sounds familiar and interesting to you.

“I am of no use!”

Banoo had already been married for 12 years and had two healthy children. She was employed by a private firm due to her post-secondary education and her friend’s referral. “I probably would not attend university and work, even if I had a choice! I just followed the rest of the youths in my family“ she said. She loved her husband, but not since the beginning of their relationship. They knew each other through her colleague and her family started to like him after they had several interactions with him. According to my grandfather, he was a mature and responsible man; my father also believed the same. I had a mixed feeling about him. However, when I realized my family’s opinion about him, I thought he could be a good candidate.

After the birth of her newborn, she stayed home for a while taking care of her family. Although their family income was reduced; however, she was more satisfied, as she could enjoy the time she spent with her family. Her husband was also happy with the current situation and thus she completely resigned from her employment. She believed that the benefits of being a housewife would be to participate in gatherings that she was not able to make it in the past, due to her full time job and also to have more time to spend with her family and work towards their comfort. In the year, she also gave birth to their second child.

However, after a while, she was always pondering if whether this was the life style that she wanted. The kids were in school by then and needed less attendance; her husband was not communicative and the work preoccupied him. She had more free time on her own. Banoo was not feeling as happy and energetic as before, She felt she was gaining weight and getting old at the same time. Despite the fact that she was not interested in working full time, she regarded her working friends to be successful. Even she thought her housewife-friends were more successful. Basically, she did not find herself as effective for her family, as before. Subsequently, she became more isolated since she did not want her family or friends to find out about her loss. The relationship between Banoo and her family was affected by this feeling and she thought that her family is the cause for her loss. Suggested by her husband, she was seeking advice from a counselor and now she was expecting my thoughts as guidelines.


Self-awareness defined:

We read Banoo’s challenge and life story; however, before providing a solution I introduced one of the significant life skills: self-awareness. Self-awareness means the capability of getting to know our strengths and weaknesses, our goals and fears, knowing what we like and what we dislike.

Skills are not inherent or intrinsic. They can be achieved through training and practice. Life skills results in the capability of reaching your goals efficiently. In fact, life skills could be regarded as guidelines for life and how to resolve the problems. As mentioned above, self-awareness is amongst essential life skills that are required for success. This skills result in enhancing our knowledge of our emotions and thoughts which promote confidence and satisfaction. Imam Ali (PBUH) has said “Recognizing manners and demonstrating good behavior and suppress bad behavior are indication of high level wisdom.”

Whom self-awareness is essential for? Do you need these skills?
If there are any issues bothering you individually;
If you bias or uncertain on so many things and cannot tolerate any criticism;
If visiting the old memories make you uncomfortable;
If you have unresolved issues or weird feelings towards people surrounding you;
If you believe no one understands you and loneliness bothers you;
If you cannot have effective relationship with the people you are interested in;
If you feel unwanted by your spouse or children;
So you need self-awareness.


Path to self-awareness:

The first step in self-awareness is having a pencil and a notebook and I invite you to follow me in this process. Write all questions in your notebook and leave a blank page for each question.

What activities can I do well?
What is my good personality trait?
What is my bad personality trait?
Which activities I cannot do?
What are the priorities in my life?
How do I feel at the moment?
How does someone act or think of himself when feels positive about himself?
How can someone change or improve their weaknesses and if they do so, how they feel about themselves?
What activities can I do well?
What is my good personality trait?
What is my bad personality trait?
Which activities I cannot do?
What are the priorities in my life?
How do I feel at the moment?
How does someone act or think of himself who feels positive about himself?
How can someone change or improve their weaknesses and if they do so, how they feel about themselves?

Answer these questions in separate papers, and choose three friends and your family members and ask them to respond to the questions about you. Now pay attention to the same and different points in answers. Do you find yourself in your own and others’ opinion so different? What solutions you have identified to change your behaviors and emotions?

The next step is action. ” Whoever finds cognition, it leads him to practice his knowledge and who does not understand, he would not be practical.” In another words, practice makes perfect. Write down four of your abilities and skills that you can teach to others in your notebook and also write one item that you like to learn. Now, find a way to do this transaction!

Imam Ali (PBUH) has said: ‘Be aware that there are no benefits in knowledge without understanding’. Be careful that don’t have high expectations or demands, don’t be perfectionist and proud, when doing this exercise. If you are happy with this exercise for success, you have somewhat recognized and made sense of your goals in life. Congratulations! With repetition of this exercise, you will increase the positive points and reduce weaknesses too. Despite all the weaknesses and failures, human remains to be valuable, just like if a hundred-dollar bill crumpled still hundred dollars! Imam Sajjad (PBUH) requests the self-awareness from God: “Put us of those who understand themselves.” I hope his followers are also in the same path and follow his footstep.

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