“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage . . . compassion, and empathy.”
― Dean Koontz
Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” In my opinion it is one of the greatest attributes a person can have and an even more important one when it comes to being an attorney. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That is a very apt quote, especially in regard to an attorney. I may know every in and out of a case, I may know the law backwards and forwards, but my clients are not going to feel secure if they don’t know how much I care about their case and recovery. Additionally, empathy is a core value we look for in every one of the team members we hire at McDivitt Law Firm.
However, even though we strive to be empathic when interacting with all clients, that is not the only time empathy is needed. Empathy is something one should use in all types of situations. On a day-to-day basis we should be empathic to family, co-workers, and strangers on the street. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Think about how powerful that is. If we better understand within ourselves that not everyone comes for the same backgrounds or has had the same experiences we have, we can then begin to understand them. In doing so, maybe we can stop criticizing others and begin the process of empathizing with others.
How to be Empathic
An article from Psychology Today provides nine guidelines on how to be empathic. They are the following:
- Focus your attention on the welfare, interests, and needs of others
- Key into shared human values
- Suspend, temporarily, your own considered judgments and critiques
- Connect with the target
- Use reflection
- Listen to the target
- Use self-disclosure as appropriate
- Properly distance yourself to and from the target’s subjective world
- Practice it!
These are great tips, especially No. 9. If we don’t practice being empathic, it will never become second-nature. It may take time for some, or it may be extremely easy—sometimes it depends on the person. But the more you try to be empathic, the more you will improve the quality of relationships you have in life, whether they be with family, friends, co-workers, or clients.