Strengths Finder: Part 4 of 7

25 Jan

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My third strength was Empathy.

While I can see this, I had initial doubts. Quite frankly, I can be rather unsympathetic at times. I thought I might need to refresh my mind on the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Sympathy emphasizes sharing distressing feelings whereas empathy does not emphasize any particular type of feeling. The listener using empathy shares (experiences) whatever feelings the talker is expressing at the moment, regardless of whether the feelings are distressing (grief, for example) or pleasant (love, for example).

Sympathy may also involve agreeing with some aspects of the other person’s feelings, beliefs, etc. whereas empathy emphasizes understanding all of them with no interest in either agreeing or disagreeing.

The person using empathy tunes into the entire inner world of the other person whereas the person using sympathy typically tunes into only those aspects with which he agrees.

The listener using empathy usually responds more comprehensively to the talker as compared with the listener using sympathy.

http://www.empathy-and-listening-skills.info/

This was particularly helpful as it clarified what I suspected. It seems (in a simplified form of course) that sympathy involves self-identification with the feelings of others. While I can very often understand where someone is coming from, I certainly do not always agree with them. This seems to be much more in line with empathy than sympathy.

My tendency to look for the context of a situation goes hand in hand with this strength. I want to fully understand a situation, which is done best by looking at the history and motivations of those involved. By looking at the behavior of the key players, you can usually understand their motivations and, in doing so, gain valuable insight as to how they will react to a new situation.

One item that stood out to me in the description was:

By nature, you may prefer to spend time with people who respect and approve of your talents. Perhaps you can sense when individuals belittle your abilities or discount your results […] you may be choosy about the company you keep or the people you call “friend”.

This has been very true for me in the past. Often I seek some sort of outside corroboration since I do have a tendency to be a little over-sensitive at times. However, looking at things in this light, I might spend a little more time exploring these feelings before dismissing them.

One “action item” that stood out to me was “Understanding someone’s emotional state does not mean that you must excuse the behavior.” Certainly valuable insight in both professional and personal realms.

Another item that resonated strongly with me was “witnessing the happiness of others brings you pleasure”. This is very true – especially in the realm of gift-giving. I usually take my time finding a gift I know will provoke a strong positive reaction in the receiver. And then i often cannot wait to give the gift! It makes holidays very difficult for me!

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