Empathy – Sympathy?! And can empathy be learned?

We talk about being sympathetic and empathetic, but do we use them correctly and can we all be empathic? I wondered about this some time now and decided to dig a bit deeper.

To understand this fine line let me give you some definitions I came across.

Showing sympathy means we have feelings of sorrow, pity for someone else’s misfortune. It is an understanding and support between people, based on the feeling that one cares about somebody’s trouble or grief. But we do not need to be deeply involved.

Empathy again goes deeper, you put yourself into the other person’s shoes and kind of experience their emotions. You have the ability to understand and share the feeling of another person. Some say empathy is the key element to Emotional Intelligence. (*)

Daniel Goleman (author of the book Emotional Intelligence) states “that understanding others by empathy is sensing others feelings and perspectives and taking an active interest in their concerns.”

So, I may say that sympathy is kind of an acknowledgement of the others person’s feeling whereas empathy goes a step deeper, to be emotional involved with the other person’s feeling. Both happening when the other person experiences something bad.
And it may be easier or more natural to show empathy if you had similar experiences. Yet such a situation has to be treated carefully as we may experience the same but have different feelings and emotions about it!

Having those definitions, do you think empathy can be learned or developed?

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I would leave it with a yes and no as this very much depends on the person itself. The theory and definition is an easy way to understand empathy but it takes more to really be empathetic.

It is easy to say that if everybody would just be more empathetic we would all be at a better state. But we cannot forget that sometimes we need to protect ourselves, too. Not everybody can or wants to be empathetic all the time. At times we decide to close ourselves off for our own protection, and that needs to be accepted. Being empathetic can be overwhelming at times. It is ok to have an ‘empathy on-off switch’ as self-protection is important, too!

Then you have certain personality traits that have problems to be empathetic or to receive empathy. And that is a tough one as especially those personalities often see themselves as being very empathetic and say that want to feel it from others. Yet the reality looks different and both side may end up feeling hurt and misunderstood.  But once we come to understand the personality trait of a person we may be able to change our expectations and just accept that empathy is not their strength, for neither giving or receiving. And that is ok, too, but both sides have to find a way how to deal with it.

And some personality traits are simply empathetic by nature and do not see what all this talk about empathy is about. And they may be envied by some and misjudged by others.

But either way, empathy is a good thing! And bringing our ‘empathy-awareness’ back into our daily life is the right way to go. See it like planting a seed and hoping to see it grow and spread. Therefore I leave you with a few simple ideas on how to use empathy in the day-to-day life as found under mindtools.com. A simple way to learn to be more aware of empathy around us!

  1. Put aside your viewpoint and try to see things from the others person’s point of view
    – the other person reacts to a situation with the knowledge they have – not your knowledge!
    – especially if you experienced a similar situation be aware to not put your feelings into it as the other person’s feelings may be totally different
    2) Validate the other person’s perspective
    – you do not have to agree, but acknowledge and accept a different opinion
    3) Examine your attitude
    – are you more concerned with getting your way, or being right? Or is it your priority to find a solution, build relationships and accept others?

4) Listen – really listen to the other person
– Listen to what is being said and the tone how it is being said
– Listen with your eyes by watching the person’s body language
– Listen with your instincts to see if you sense that perhaps something is not being said
– Listen with your heart and think what the other person feels

Empathy is like putting yourself in the other person’s shoe –
not putting your shoe onto the other person! 

I invite you to join me in planting the seed of empathy, today and everyday!

Have a lovely day,

AK

(*) Emotional Intelligence
Understanding yourself, your goals, intentions, responses behaviour and all.
Understanding others and their feelings.

Chocolate spread – so good! 

nutella

This is something I have never ever considered doing myself, even though my kids used to ask me if it is possible to make chocolate spread at home. I just always thought it would be far too complicated. So when a friend of mine recently posted her home-made Nutella I got super excited and went to buy the ingredients the next day and made it with the kids!

You may now wonder if this homemade spread can compete with the store-bought versions. And I get it, having a chocolate addict in our house I was doubtful if this would work, too. But yes it did! She loves it, and I am more relaxed, knowing it is so much healthier!

Not only is it really easy to make, no you know what is in there and can decide the sweetness yourself! And with the huge amount of nuts, it is full with healthy nutritions! And beside all those health benefits you do something good for the environment, too, as you do not buy a product that includes palm oil.

So – are you as excited as I was when I came across this, then here you go, check the link. It is in Swedish but subtitled in english.

Home-made Nutella 

Homemade chocolate spread all you need is:

400gr hazelnuts
250gr chocolate
0,5dl honey
bit of salt

And if you decide to do this, a few comments on my two recent experiences may help you in the process to receive a satisfying result.

The first try was with almond butter. Hazelnuts are not that easy to come by here and I have a supermarket where I can get plain, fresh almond butter, so I thought I give this a try.

In the video you will see that they keep on processing even though it looks smooth and creamy already. Perhaps we should have done that with the almonds even more. But then again, the almond butter itself is not as creamy as for example the peanut butter, so it may just always end up harder. The taste was nice, obviously different due to the almonds but good. And a great start to this new version of chocolate spread in our house!

The second try was with hazelnuts, making it from scratch, just as the recipe says. And oh is that a good one! Already the smell of the hazelnut cream was just mouthwatering. We processed it extra long due to our previous experience! And then pouring it all together, and finally trying it, hmmm… What can I say – we are in love!

Want to finally be more relaxed when you and/or kids enjoy chocolate spreads? Then try this one! I hope you will say the same as my kids “Oh this is so goooooooood!”

Have a lovely day,

AK

 

Improvise Life

fullsizerenderI recently attended a workshop on “How to improvise your life”. Originally this type of workshop was catered towards actors, yet the trainer took it further, made participants look into improvising in the normal day-to-day life. I was intrigued by the title and content, so I tagged along, with no idea whatsoever on what to expect.

And I was surprised, because coming to think about it, not only actors improvise, no we all improvise on a daily basis, perhaps even more so when dealing with children. We just often do not put a name to it, or simply call it life, or challenge, or adventure or it-is-what-it-is. But bottom line is that we are all being asked to improvise daily, and some cope with it better than others.

Looking into the definition what to improvise means leads us to the following:

  • to create and perform spontaneously or without preparation
  • to produce or make something from whatever is available

The word improvise goes back to the latin word improvisus, meaning unforeseen.

I personally like this more, this unforeseen. Because that is what we have to do daily;  react to unforeseen happenings, to other people’s behaviours, kids moods, world happenings, the weather, traffic, feelings and emotions, etc.
Coming to think of it; with all that we come across on a daily base we should be the masters of improvising – yet often it is precisely those situations that leave us rattled and off balance!
Because we want to be in control, we want to hold on!
We do not want to improvise, we want to be in charge!

But the more flexible and open we allow our mind to be the more easily and smoothly we can react.

During the workshop we had several group exercises and for one of them we were paired into twos. We got one pen, one paper. Then we were instructed to draw a face onto the paper, without any communication, having to change the pen back and forth after every single stroke. Now, we all set up with a different idea, different vision yet with every single stroke by the partner we had to rethink, readjust – to improvise – as it wasn`t the way we may wanted it to be. While this was with a pen and paper only, it does in fact represent the real life around us, because it is up to us individually how we chose to react.

Do we decide to do it my-way, to go with the flow and to be open,
to resent and get upset or to create something new and great together? 

In terms of improvising and real life I wonder if we all cannot feel a bit more at ease if we allow ourselves more to letting go instead of desperately holding on?!

Have a lovely day,

AK

 

 

 

 

Frosting – Help, no icing sugar!

Not only did my daughter decide last minute that she wanted frosting on the muffins, no I live as well in a country where I find it hard to even buy icing sugar! So what to do if most recipes are using a fair amount of powdered sugar? Go and find a good one based on plain sugar! And I did find one; it looked fab and tasted great!

If you find yourself out of icing sugar or live in a place where it is hard to come by, look no further, try this one (from all recipes.com)!
It is fluffy, delicious and looks like whipped cream – only tastes better!

 

Ingredients

1 cup milk
2 tablespoon all purpose flour icing

1 cup butter, softened (room temperature)
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

Whisk milk into flour in a small saucepan until smooth.
Heat and stir until it boils and thickens.
Cool thoroughly!
I poured mine into a bowl and placed it in the fridge to speed up the cooling time.

When the milk mixture is cooled down, mix the soft (room temperature) butter with sugar and the vanilla extract until it is light and fluffy, then add the thickened milk.
Beat until the mixture resembles whipped cream.

This recipe makes enough to fill and frost 2 layer cake, about 3 1/2 cups.
I used half the ingredients to cover 12 cupcakes.

The second time I tried it on lemon cupcakes and I replaced the vanilla extract with fresh lemon juice and it worked fantastic. Feel free to add a bit of food colouring if you fancy different colours and/or add sprinkles!

So, next time you need to prepare some frosting but can’t find powdered sugar, don’t panic, you have this one at hand now!

Have a lovely day,

AK

 

Tired of being tired…

I reached the point where I feel emotionally, mentally and physically drained.

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It is not that only bad things are happening, not at all, a lot of good stuff is going on but the exhaustion makes it difficult to enjoy and to see them at times. My mind seems to be in a constant overflow, I constantly seem to do something. I am trying to channel all the good, tough and negative thoughts. Learning to distance myself from the negative and take energy and power from the positive. But mentally I seem to have reached an overkill with all that.

Emotionally I find myself on a very short leash, am easily irritated and do not want to do anything once the kids are asleep, but to be left alone. At times, I have to force myself to enjoy when I am out doing fun stuff. That is not me and the feeling is not a nice one and gets me frustrated – and I then I find myself going even deeper into the mental exhaustion, trying to find a way out.

As well physically I feel tired. l am out and about everyday but not really doing enough for myself. And I know that one part of getting more stable and stronger mentally and emotionally is to pick up my physical activities again. I use my jogging to sort my thoughts, get ideas and feel at ease. And I do not jog regularly these days/weeks, and the impact is there. Being sleep deprived surely does not help the mix I am already in!

But today, I got tired of it all – tired of being tired! And feel like this statement I found today:
img_7724I am surely not alone when I say that I tend to use my ‘battery’ pretty much to the end and then need to urgently recharge it. I am usually aware of when I reached the lower percentage of my battery. But even if I am aware of it, I don’t step in and I let it go too low! I need to find a way to step in earlier to keep it on a steady level! This constant “go-go-go” in all areas is not good for anybody, there will come a time when we all crack and we do not want that, the time to recharge the battery will take even longer!

While I am tired today, I am not yet on my lowest and I stepped in just in time, I hope. I took the day slow, ensured my toddler takes his nap time at home and used that time for me – to simply be. No washes, dishes, dinner preparation, studies or anything. Just me, tea and a book. I even took the sun loungers out – using lovely sunny weather to speed up the charging!

But I need to find a way of not feeling guilty of doing that regularly, to keep my battery loaded on a healthy level and not reaching close to 0%! Today was a good start, I feel more charged than this morning and ready to tackle the afternoon – I am actually writing this while sitting on the balcony, my little only playing around in the sun. Writing about my exhaustion, taking time to notice ways how I can recharge again, feeling the sun, taking a time out; all this makes me finally smile today – a free smile, not a forced one!

But I have to keep doing this, my battery is not properly loaded yet, it is still charging. After all our batteries are always in use and need a constant charging! So tomorrow I need to do the same, the day after and thereafter and and and.

We owe it to ourselves to keep our own battery loaded and
not wait until it turns low or even empty! 

Be aware of how your mental, emotional and physical state are all connected and how you feel when one or more reach an unbalance. Make sure they are all treated well and charged! Feeling energised is so much nicer than exhausted, wouldn’t you agree?

For me, this means after my today’s mental charging session, I will put my running shoes on this weekend, no matter what! I know it will charge me physically and mentally, and usually helps to balance my emotions, too! And day by day I will learn to remind myself that I don’t have to feel guilty to take time to recharge myself in all three areas!

What do you do to recharge yourself mentally, emotionally and physically? Please feel free to share your best tricks!

Have a lovely, energised day,

AK