empathy

Sympathy vs. Empathy (and how knowing the difference could save your relationships) Part Four

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Last week we began examining the seven steps to fostering more empathy, including learning to better identify our own feelings and treating others as they would like to be treated. This week we conclude the series by looking at the last three steps to increasing our empathy, including being more curious and challenging prejudices and finding common ground.

 

Cultivate curiosity

 

When we were little children we were all naturally curious but later in life this curiosity tends to fade. Remember that little child in you and do your best to remain curious and open. Ask people questions and learn about their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings. Seek to understand viewpoints different to your own.

 

Active listening and being open

 

Active listening is when we really focus on listening to others. It involves reading body language, mirroring body language and repeating what the other has said so they feel heard and understood – this approach also gives others the opportunity to correct you if they meant something different to what you thought.

 

Be open and share your own story with others. Let yourself be vulnerable. It will make the person you’re speaking to feel safe in sharing with you in turn.

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How to Avoid Problems by Integrating Play Part Four

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we looked at the advantages of having a bucket list in helping us play more and reaping plays benefits of light-heartedness, flexibility and optimism. This week we discover the essential questions to ask yourself when creating your bucket list.

 

The main questions to ask yourself when compiling your bucket list are…

 

  • What have I always wanted to do?
  • Where do I want to travel?
  • What events would I like to go to?
  • What activities would I like to try out?
  • What classes would I like to take?
  • What hobbies would I like to adopt?
  • What skills would I like to have?
  • Which sports would I like to try out?

 

After realizing many of my problems were a result of a lack of play in my life (causing me to be inflexible and have a reduced resilience to stress) I have to admit that I cannot wait to embark on more play this year and focus on my 40 before 40 bucket list.

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How to Avoid Problems by Integrating Play Part Three

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

 

After thinking more about the role play had in my life I realized I needed to make a play action plan. My strategy was two-fold, first I would force myself to take one day off a week and play with friends or family, the second was something I had already been working on – my 40 before 40 bucket list. When I looked over the bucket list after having realized what adult play was, I saw that almost 90% of it was actually play.

 

My list was packed with holidays, classes, hobbies and activities that I had never tried before but always wanted to, it was the perfect solution to my recent lack of play! I couldn’t have actually planned it better; the novelty factor would serve to add to my sense of fun and engagement whilst the holidays would add an element of adventure too.

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How to Avoid Problems by Integrating Play Part Two

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Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

 

In the past I usually thought of typical play as spontaneous – the type of play most commonly associated with children. After reading Dr. Brown’s definition of what play can include however it occurred to me that play actually falls into two main categories, both spontaneous and non-spontaneous.

 

For adults spontaneous play could be laughing and joking with friends, dancing or even singing along to your favorite song on the radio, whilst non-spontaneous play could involve board games, going to a museum or playing a game of tennis.

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How to Avoid Problems by Integrating Play Part One

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Throughout the years I’ve had a turbulent relationship with play. Being an all or nothing type of person I’ve gone from ‘all play and no work’ in my twenties to ‘all work and no play’ in my thirties. In recent years my desire to progress in my career has led to a more ‘all work and no play’ approach, which has admittedly been fuelled by my perfectionism.

 

After some discussions with my therapist I realized that neither approach had served me very well. If I wanted to increase my resilience to stress when it arose and reduce the possibility of burn out, I needed to introduce more play into my life!

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February’s New Hot Topic… Play!

In today’s hectic world all too often play is thought of as childish and indulgent but recent studies by Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, have revealed that play leads to greater light-heartedness, empathy, flexibility, adaptiveness, optimism, hope for the future and produces a sense of belonging. Play even promotes our being open to new ideas and increases our creativity.

 

So this February join me in rediscovering a life full of both wonder and play – a life where obstacles are successfully tackled with our newly enhanced skills of flexibility and adaptiveness. A life which promotes well being and ultimately leads to our relationships flourishing as a result of greater empathy, optimism and hope.

 

I can’t wait to embark on this journey with you all!

 

Wishing you all the joy and happiness you deserve,

 

x X x Jenny x X x

Friends and Family Questionnaire

One of the easiest ways to do a life audit is to just ask yourself ten questions for each area of your life and then give yourself a score to find out how to rate yourself.

 

Below I’ve outlined ten questions for the friends and family life area so you can easily assess where you’re currently at – simply give yourself a score out of ten for each question with one being awful and ten being excellent, with no room for improvement.

 

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Shifting perspectives – how to empathize with family

As a twenty something I always thought my parents were on my case. I’m an only child and I used to view their attentiveness as being overly fussy and too much. Looking back, I hadn’t developed the maturity to effectively empathize and see things from their perspective and I can now appreciate just why they were worried for me (in my twenties I was a binge drinker).

 

After several years of therapy and having quit drinking I better understand my parents and the concern they had for me all those years ago. What helped me to empathize with my parents most was trying to understand their perspective better. I took into consideration their life experiences, their generations perspective and how it would feel if I were a parent myself. I started seeing my parents as not just mom or dad but people in their own right, doing the very best they could. And I was lucky, my parents cared for me deeply and their concern was born from their love for me.

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Three Ways to Be Supportive Towards Your Friends

Being supportive towards our friends is important as it builds trust, strengthens our bond and helps us during times of stress when our demands in life are high and our resources are low. There are many ways we can offer support towards our friends, below are just three ways we can help our friends during life’s trials.

 

Words of encouragement and hope

 

It is one of the most basic human needs to have hope for the future. In times of despair one of the best ways we can be thoughtful towards others is to lift them up by offering encouragement and hope. Words can be very powerful and the act of encouraging your friends can give them hope for a better future, empowering them to make positive changes which will improve their lives.

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