January 5, 2013

Reflections: Good communication requires true empathy


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In a culture that emphasizes judgment, criticism, punishment and blame, the need to be heard and to matter are two of the greatest unmet needs. Smith teaches that true empathy meets those needs.

Smith says, "People want empathy and not sympathy." She teaches that often sympathy, the expression of pity, is confused with empathy, total presence, hearing and acceptance of another's reality. To practice true empathy, we learn to put aside a life time of cultural conditioning. That takes a lot of practice.

Smith teaches when we are empathetic, we do not judge or blame, agree or disagree, wonder what he can do to help, or how we might respond. We sit in quiet, still presence with an open heart. This requires gentle attentiveness to our own state of mind.

If we begin to drift into habitual patterns of thought, the practice is to come back to our open heart to hold presence for the other.

When strong feelings arise, we practice self compassion to be able to hold empathy for others.

Rosenberg writes, "When we give from the heart, we do so out of a joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person's life." When we communicate effectively with presence, we can improve our relationships and avoid unnecessary stress.

Ashok Nalamalapu is president of iCST -- an IT staffing and software testing firm in South Portland (www.i-cst.com). He can be reached at ashok@i-cst.com or 772-6898.


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