Technology allows us to communicate more than ever, but the quality of that communication has diminished significantly. While you can shoot off an email or Facebook message in a second, our social cravings aren’t necessarily nourished when our communications are clipped short or weakened by distraction. (Think of how often you check your phone at dinner.) Connection is vital to humans, and study after study shows that the biggest contributor to happiness is strong relationships.
But to cultivate these strong relationships, you need empathy. Unfortunately, empathy is often confused for sympathy. The difference?
- EMPATHY: Feeling with somebody.
- SYMPATHY: Feeling for somebody.
This distinction may seem minor, but it has an enormous affect on how you interact with others. The way you speak to others, the way you communicate your own experience—all are opportunities to practice empathy.
At the forefront of this research is Dr. Brené Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability. Over and over, she finds empathy to be the antidote to the biggest blocks to relationships, whether marriages or employee relations. The first step to practicing empathy? Understanding the difference. The problem is, no one really teaches us.
If you want to learn to communicate better ASAP, this 3-minute video lays it all out. Created from Brown’s famous TED talk on the power of vulnerability, it shows the key differences between sympathy and empathy and explains why you should never start a sentence with “at least…”
Trying to live life better? You might also enjoy these:
- Try a 10-item wardrobe to save your brain energy
- Find out if the perfect balance of micro-breaks is the key to productivity
- Do these 5 exercises to get you into your flow
- Try these 12 creative exercises this year
- Jumpstart your resolutions with these self-improvement hacks
For more inspiration, sign up for our newsletter.