Category Archives: Jill Howgate

Understanding Empathy

Understanding Empathy

Empathy has gotten a lot of press recently, and rightly so. Empathy fosters relational connections that transcend age, race, sex, culture, experience, belief, and circumstance.

Yet it can be difficult to express empathy in the midst of interpersonal conflict.

Here’s a quick primer on empathy and using it effectively:

  • Empathy is a way to leverage universal emotional responses to establish relational connections; it is not about adopting someone else’s feelings in order to show your support.
  • Empathy is not restricted by shared experiences; it requires neither specific understanding of a situation nor a shared perspective.
  • Empathy does not equate to agreement, approval, forgiveness, or even imply tacit acceptance.
  • Empathy does not exempt the recipient from facing the consequences of their actions; it is simply a compassionate acknowledgment of their feelings.

Empathy is hardest to express in the midst of conflict, but that’s when it’s most helpful. Just remember to focus on the emotion rather than the issue.

In a political argument with your brother-in-law, you don’t have to empathize with his position on gun control to empathize with his commitment to being a part of the decision-making process and his desire to do what is best for his country. “We may not see eye to eye on the methods, but I can appreciate how seriously you take this issue and your desire to make the best decision for our country.” Will this guarantee that things between you and your brother-in-law will be harmonious from that moment on…absolutely not! But it does allow you to act in a way that is congruent with the person you aspire to be rather than react to the tone set by someone else.

In a heated argument with your teen about attending an event, “I can tell that you’re angry about this decision and I know how frustrating it feels to not have authority over your own life. I hate that feeling too and I hate being in the position to make you feel that way, but I can’t give you the answer you want.”

Jill Howgate
jhowgate@growcounseling.com

Defense Mechanisms & Coping Skills – Regression – Part 3

Defense Mechanisms & Coping Skills – Regression – Part 3

As I mentioned in previous blogs, defense mechanisms like denial, are unconscious responses to overwhelming stress in our lives. Although they serve an important purpose, if left unchecked, protective instincts from defense mechanisms can inhibit the development of healthier coping skills. Today, we are going to dive into the topic of regression. Nowhere is this…

Defense Mechanisms & Coping Skills – Denial – Part 2

Defense Mechanisms & Coping Skills – Denial – Part 2

One of our most primitive defense mechanisms is denial. Mark Twain perfectly captured the essence of denial when he quipped, Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. In effect, denial is an effort to avoid the pain or discomfort of reality by pretending it doesn’t exist. It is the emotional manifestation of the ‘flight’ portion…

Defense Mechanisms and Coping Skills – Part 1

Defense Mechanisms and Coping Skills – Part 1

Coping skills can take many forms and help us make sense of our experiences, mitigate stress, and sustain our sense of self-worth. Sometimes life can feel pretty overwhelming. Without these strategies for managing life’s stressors and sustaining a sense of emotional well-being, it would be difficult to navigate even the simplest daily challenges. What happens…

Party Survival Skills for the Socially Anxious

Party Survival Skills for the Socially Anxious

For many people, parties are a highlight of the holiday season. But for those who are socially anxious, holiday parties can be nothing short of torturous. Resolving social anxiety exceeds the scope of a blog post, but in the meantime, here are some quick tips for surviving all the festivities. Set yourself up for success…

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