Why is empathy so precious?

DG and hogHere’s a true story to illustrate the power of empathy.

A couple of weeks ago I had an assisted conversation with my partner that went “wrong”, as in more fiery than was doable for either of us to handle. And that was when we had support from trusted friends who were with us! (We were at the couples’ retreat we attend). 

Luckily, those friends knew what we needed in that situation and we broke up in two groups, one giving empathy to me, the other to my partner.

I was particularly stuck, seemingly not able to move beyond the particular “enemy image” I had about my partner. I had a lot of energy and defensiveness in me and all the intensity was somehow fuelling my “story”.

Except that the story was a sort of “dead end”, not taking me anywhere I wanted to end up. The situation looked impossible and I couldn’t see a way out of the destructive thoughts raging in me.

When you’re in a state of intensity, your perspective really narrows down. In mine, I did not remember the option to empathise with my “story”. I only wanted it gone, because it was so counterproductive. I was a victim of my story and an attacker of it, both.

My friends, however, chose to empathise instead of co-fighting with that which I wanted gone.

They listened for what I was needing right within the epicentre of my “bullshit” and much to my surprise something beautiful and worthwhile was lurking in there.

The moment I had connection with THAT (a deep need for choice) I softened and felt tenderness instead of tension towards my partner.

When he returned to the room, sheepishly because he had undergone a similar transformation, the group witnessed a heart warming affection and openness between us.

Yeh, empathy is precious and if you are thinking through your priorities of where to invest your available time and money, empathy training should be very near the top of your list. Everything in your life will benefit!