Developing Empathy Skills within Relationships

 

 

 

 

In the age of sharply increased narcissism, empathy is a dying art.

 

Bad Seeds…

True Alpha males make shitty relationship partners. Their well established brand of endless string of short-term failed relationships and prepotency for fast fused-quick to fizzle marriages are a pure testament to this, as are the baggage laden train wrecks that follow in their wake. While the alpha attraction triggers female hypergamy on many levels, it fails to transition into appropriate nurturing roles which are critically needed to sustain long-term committed relationships. Their low emotional quotient (EQ) plays out as they tend to find themselves to be constantly at odds with others, in a state of being angry, stressed and frustrated, acting out in a controlling manner, which ultimately leads people to push away and tune them out. Ask any child of an overbearing parent.

Remove the Negatives First

It will be no surprise to most to know that empathy is one of the main components of emotional intelligence and that empathic people are skilled in placing themselves inside the shoes of others and seeing the world through another person’s perspective. The problem isn’t the awareness of the skill, but their implementation that stymies people. In trying to improve almost anything it is vastly more effective to remove a detriment than add an accruement. As such we’ll discuss first behaviors that should be removed or reduced.

Lack of Role Models

Our exposure to multiple role models to gather and develop early behavioral traits and reference points for learning social skills is fundamental in our development as adults, as those without them will be at a severe disadvantage to learning appropriate ones, as they will be ignorant of them or exposed to poor ones. Additionally individuals embracing a arch-type that is obsolete can be more detritus than not having an acceptable one, as the individual will need to let go of their false belief system first prior to learning and developing new skill sets, which never seems to happen without a major life crisis. In this regard family structure, the quality of parenting and exposure to appropriate social culture cues largely prepare and determine one’s preliminary social skill sets, to include empathy, leadership abilities along with many others.

At a Drop of a Hat

Sadly empathy is sacrificed when we are upset, angry, disappointed or frustrated. We must not only fight this natural impulse, but to be well aware how our lack of empathy at these times tends to make the most horrific, life impacting emotional wounds when we fail to control ourselves and lash out on blind compulsion. We need to be aware of how we influence our relationships by not only what and how we say what we do, but the manner and regard for how we care for the people we are interacting with when emotions have put so much at stake. While a liberal use of diplomacy and tact is called for a clear sign that we should be on point is any time anger, frustration or disappointment first raises it head.

Double Standards

We all know the ‘Golden Rule’ of treating others the way you would want to be treated, but are we really holding ourselves to the standard we place on other’s behaviors to you? Would you find your behavior acceptable if someone else did it to you? It is all too common to leave our own behaviors unobserved, but they are precisely the behaviors in which are most visible to others and as a consequence of this human trait, leave us incredibly vulnerable to their impact on the relationship. It is important to remember that one can be empathic, validate another person’s view point and yet still disagree. An important step in doing so is developing a personal boundary of dropping any double standards that may exist.

Relating Instead of Understanding

In a misguided attempt to relate and thus foster a sense of rapport and connection with others, we will often try to relate to what they are saying in our own lives and then share that. While fine on occasion it can lead to a situation where the speaker does not feel they are being truly herd or listened to and comes across as a ‘me-too’ type of one-upmanship conversation. Left un-checked it can have negative impact on the relationship, as it is a detriment to shared understanding, as the comparison does little to foster greater insight or further the rapport with the speaker. Instead of proffering a similar comparison, ask a simple question of ‘what did that mean to them?’, ‘How did that make them feel?’ or ‘why was that important to you?’ can go a long way in fostering the connection we think we’re trying to make.

Not Being Present

The less we are being in the moment, truly utilizing the skills of actively listening, the harder it is to tune into other people’s feelings and intentions, which is critical to providing emotional support, as they are communicating them. In our rush to project ahead, to get to the bend in the conversation and to frame our response, we completely lose sight of the reason of our conversation in the first place, sharing information as a means to build, maintain and sustain the relationship.

Accentuating the Positive

Having removed many of the common obstacles to greater empathic understanding and relating with our partners, we can progress into understanding common traits that will enhance and further our empathic skills which will serve to strengthen these important emotional bonds.

Drop Your Agenda

A central part of being present is setting aside your beliefs, concerns and dropping your personal agenda in order to fully hear what your partner is saying. It is the skill of going into a conversation without expectations, without goals of fixing or resolving issues first. Our presuppositions muddy the communication and our thinking process. Our only agenda is listening to our partner’s feelings, sentiments, points of view and reference points in attempts to understand where they are coming from and what they are trying to express. We are listening to gain their perspective. Once we have listened and we’re sure they have been heard correctly can the communication progress from there.

Getting Beyond the Facts

Most of us consider listening to be made up of clearly able to understand the ‘Who, What, Where, When , Why and How’ of what is being communicated, but fail to take into true account the speakers emotional state, energy, tone and body language as they are communicating. These social clues can be imperative to developing a connection and understanding between the parties, as much as the words expressed. Frequently what being said isn’t nearly as important, as what’s not being said, but otherwise communicated. Learning to fully watch, as well as to listen to our partner strengthens the connection between the cognitive and emotional brain which leads to deep emotional rapport that is defined as empathic connection.

An Indian’s Moccasins

In actively listening to our partner we are trying to place ourselves in their shoes, to see the situation from their position, their emotional standing point and how that is affecting them. If you are unsure, it is completely reasonable and beneficial to simply ask… ask them ‘How do you feel about that?’ ‘What does that mean to you?’, ‘Do you mean that you feel…X?’ etc… learning to use open-ended questions regarding thoughts, feelings and beliefs can not only clarify an issue but bring underlying driving issues to the forefront, often these will be issues surrounding emotional needs.

Relate to their Inner-Child

In times of high contest, immense emotional fray, over-whelming pressure and expectations we are faced with a situation that has created a barrier to communication and connection that seem insurmountable. At times like these a simple and effective strategy of visualizing our partner as their vulnerable inner-child we can lower and lessen our defenses, that will then allow us to preserve the relationship and communicate in an effective way. It is by a combination of seeing through our partner’s presence for the vulnerable person that they are and defusing the emotional intensity that we can then focus on the issue at hand without being distracted by the enormity of them or the situation.

If we want our partners to appreciate what we are communicating, if we want them to respond to and work cooperatively with us, then we must consider their perspective, how they perceive us, how they perceive how they’ve been heard and how they’ve been received by what they’ve expressed . Utilizing empathy is key element within this whole process of communication, emotional needs expression and grounding and solidifying the relationship.

 

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Staying Positive

Troubles seldom disappoint

As a gender men are expected to take the lead socially in almost every aspect of the courtship ritual and early developments of initiating the baseline of that relationship is established by concealed negotiations of what we except by accepting initial patterns of early behavior from our potential partner. Being cognizant and astutely observant of initial patterns of behavior or personal narrative, while dating, coming from a potential partner can help us increase the probability of establishing a healthy and productive relationship by filtering and screening those potential mates. These values should be treated and regarded as boundaries as establishing limits to what you will accept into your life and with those that you invite in. One of the most important is the ability of a couple to accentuate the positive in life more than those that choose to revel in the negative of life.

Too much EQ

Women often fall victim of cluster of personality traits and attributes that promotes excessive effusiveness, which in times of stress heightens their vulnerability, insecurity and emotional state that leaves them not only needing but desiring a strong, secure and emotionally stable figure in their lives. That figure has historically has been filled by stoic male partners, to re-establish an emotional baseline of emotional self-worth, security, and stability. The new girl order simply is creating an environment and culture in which historic masculine roles are not valued, developed and respected in men. As such, we are raising new generations of men lacking or devoid of these traits, characteristics and attributes. This is nowhere more apparent than when we look at the divorce initiation rates, between gay couples, as lesbians tend to divorce at a vastly higher rate than homosexual couples, where these skills, attributes and personality traits are typically not as developed or missing altogether individually and within the coupling. Even with the staggering high divorce rates within heterosexual couples, it pays to have a masculine male in the relationship that is able to objectively sort out emotional trivialities, as to define and interpret what is important, by taking issues into perspective, by accepting accountability for one’s emotional state, and being emotionally secure in the face of adversity, which are not historically feminine traits.

Strongest frame wins

Emotional contagion is the unconscious tendency to mimic the emotions of others, (the stronger frame wins), which takes place continuously within a relationship. Without being aware or insulated from it when the behavior or emotions are negative can become a disastrous effect individually and ultimately within a relationship. Emotional detachment is the concept of insulating oneself from the emotional contagion. It is completely possible to be emotionally supportive, without being emotional immersed. Establishing that emotional boundary is critical to maintaining emotional context, stability and security, as poor attitudes, bad emotions, and negative outlooks are all contagious and detrimental to emotional health and a relationship. If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in life, you’ll find it easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that is far below what you deserve.

Bad apples

First order of business of any leader is to eliminate the negative rather than accentuate the positive, as the negative has repeatedly shown in study after study has a disproportionate impact, as compared to the power of the positive. All militaries know this and have framed their entire institutions around this concept. Businesses marketers realize this concept as well, as a bad stereotypes and reputations are easier to acquire, and harder to shed, than good ones. As the male, it will fall to you to hold a critical confrontation when the patterns of acceptable behavior, attitudes and emotions exceed healthy boundaries. This should be done in conjunction with emotional needs communication and active listening skills for best results.

Resisting reality

More often than not, one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened. Our emotional state (good or bad) is generated by interpretations of events. Taking personal responsibility for your happiness involves, ultimately adopting a ‘trust mindset’ which refers to the willingness to fully and unquestioningly accept the outcomes you are dealt with in life and ‘trust’ within yourself you are capable and able to handle what comes. To do so otherwise is the hallmark for embracing misery and suffering.

Think like an optimist

People who don’t give up tend to interpret setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. The best way to immunize a partner against depression, anxiety, and giving up in the face of failure or perception of it is to teach them to think like optimists in adjusting their self talk, setting goals in small attainable steps, to mentally rehearse succeeding in their efforts and activities and to learn active stress reduction techniques to soothe their mind and bodies. These are the same psychological techniques taught and demanded of special warfare candidates going through Special Forces selection process. These techniques work and are valued and utilized by those who require success in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Behavior economics

Researchers have shown for a relationship to succeed, the positive and good interactions between a couple must outnumber the negative by a factor of 5:1. If the ratio falls below that, the relationship is likely to fail. In studies the best indicator of happiness was the frequency of eating with friends and family… If you were to choose one activity to produce an emotional upswing, start with breaking bread with those that make you smile, laugh and forget your troubles. Having a special meal together can be an immediate remedy, but often you just don’t have time to prep a meal on the fly, which is why I recommend having a nice bottle of wine always at hand. By taking time to stop the normal pattern of daily occurrences and slowing things down and making them more pleasurable, while you actively listen and provide emotional support can help offset a negative emotional occurrence. A pre-emptive solution is to enlist allies on a regular basis, by having regular shared meals with friends and family to establish a higher emotional happiness baseline long prior to any troubles.

Express gratitude…

Expressing gratitude and sharing appreciation for a partner is the primary means for creating a positive relationship internally. As a man, it will be your role to lead by example to establish the relationship culture of appreciation, acceptance and love. By looking for and accentuating the positive qualities in your partner and humbly acknowledging the difference that she has made in your life, you not only validate her contributions but attract them as well. Showing genuine appreciation for your partner is one of the most powerful ways we can empower each other in a healthy relationship. Likewise, learning to expressing gratitude during times of extreme sorrow, pain or hardship can be done to help lift the spirit, by giving thanks. Your heart doesn’t need to be smiling when doing so.

Happiness advantage

For years psychologist have known that thriving couples accentuate the positive in life more so than those that languish do. They not only cope well during hardship but also celebrate the happy moments and work to build more of those into their lives. A simple behavioral tactic to boost the happiness ratio and to help strengthen emotional bonds with your partner is to actually celebrate success as they occur. The most simple is to just be consciously aware and present when your partner is discussing and sharing an achievement. Sprinkling in regular ‘high-fives’ and ‘you-go-girl’ comments often spike the happiness and focus upon a shared achievement. For bigger occasions, setting time aside from your routine to properly celebrate is in order. These needn’t be big, over the top costly extravagances, but having a bottle of champagne on hand chilled in the fridge affords one the immediate flexibility to toast, accentuate and recognize achievement or success at a moment’s notice. If those moments haven’t occurred in a while, or a natural stasis of life occurs, break the pattern and just celebrate being together. It’s a fairly simple process to plan and develop your life to regularly celebrate the living of it.

 

Providing Emotional Support

Treat others as they want to be treated

What’s empathy have to do with it?

Emotional support is a fundamental form of communication, basic to the human experience and pervasive in everyday life. At its center is empathy, the capacity to recognize and share feelings that are being experienced by another. Empathy is the foundation of good two-way communication and is an important determinant of satisfaction within relationships. It is not surprising that those who value emotional support skills and are adept at providing it tend to be popular, satisfying relationship partners. Being empathetic is seeing from another person’s perspective regardless of your own opinion or belief. It is the ability to share their excitement in times of achievement, to offer encouragement in times of difficulty and safety in times of failure. It is through shared empathy that we develop trust and intimacy.

 Value follows energy

Attention is the means by which you give something or someone importance in your life. Indiscriminate, undirected attention can become ineffectual or oppressive depending upon circumstance. Everyone knows this instinctively, but few act on it consciously. Attention doesn’t have to be continuous either, in fact a single segment of 20-minutes of undivided attention per day with your partner can have significant positive impact on the quality and intimacy of your relationship and is often only what they need or desire.

 What lips do not speak, the hands convey…

Emotional support comes in a variety of shapes and forms, but one of the most effective is role of touching. Sadly most people are touch starved. The world of touch is where intimacy, love and sex all come together. Holding hands, walking arm in arm and cuddling are just some of the simpler ways we share this powerful experience, but couples forget that it is a distinct essential need and desire. Learn to naturally express your sentiments via touching your partner on a regular basis, not just to sexually stimulate your partner into arousal.

 Emotional failure

Much of the emotional support received in everyday life addresses ordinary upsets, distresses, and hurts, which might not appear to have significant or lasting impact on most people, yet substantial evidence shows that these minor events are major determinants of moods and psychological well-being. However as a skill set emotional support can be beneficial or it can be detrimental, as poor-quality emotional support exacerbates an already stressful situation. Men typically fail at the basic level of providing emotional support due to a lack of understanding, poor empathy, misallocation of focus, attention or outside distraction, and are unskilled or inexperienced in the art of emotional touch, that can lead to emotional nurturing and healing. Often this is compounded by gender roles as men who are taught to lead, protect and to provide, do just that when their partner is truly in search of compassion and understanding, not resolutions.

 The White Knight Syndrome

In an effort to help their partners cope effectively with an emotional distress men will try to resolve the issue themselves by providing for the woman directly. While this may indeed solve the immediate issue at hand, it is a woeful practice, as it undermines your partner’s self-respect and self-esteem, leaving them beholden to you, rather than developing their own sense of achievement and success, by resolving their issues themselves. Doing so often promotes not only natural jealousy in reflection of it, but a simmering seething resentment at their own failures to cope that will ultimately get re-directed at you. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it centers on finances and her sense of identity as a self-supporting adult. This goes double for a woman who’s been cultured to feel self-entitled, special and privileged, as much of the American ala carte feminist princess-class is today. This is due to the fact that there is a lot of fear, shame and self-contempt involved in needing assistance and it underscores the nature of her reality, especially in regards to sex roles. No one likes to be shown to be inferior to their own sense of self-ideals. In the action to help resolve an issue, you’re also destroying someone’s self-esteem by tearing down their self-illusions. When the generosity is repeated enough that it underscores a severe imbalance within the relationship, you promote co-dependence and risk infantilizing your partner, by becoming her father. That is a relationship structure for which she will surely react to sooner or later, and for a woman with low self-esteem, there is no better elixir than gratification and validation that comes with spreading herself wantonly for new cock who ‘gets her’. It is far better to act as a friend, guide and part of her support network, to coach and mentor her through the issue at hand, than to provide for her directly.

 The emotional tight rope

Emotional support are the skills used to make your partner feel valued, safe and understood. They are the tools utilized to help lift someone to higher ground, so they can see their way through their difficulties themselves and develop a healthy earned sense of self-esteem, self-respect and self-concept of themselves, by becoming self-competent. Successfully providing emotional support is determining the right chemistry, of balancing too little emotional attachment with too much involvement. It’s about finding the sweet spot that your partner needs for connectedness and interdependence.