At first, one may think it’s the same as Validate, but not so.
- To Validate, one must ask, “How do they feel?”
- To Empathize, one must ask, “How would I feel?”
- To Validate, one must wonder, “What are their emotions?”
- To Empathize, one must wonder, “Why are they having those emotions?”
- To Validate, you let them know that you understand their perspective, even if you don’t agree.
- To Empathize, you have to force yourself to know why they must be feeling that way.
I like to think of it this way… Do you know that famous saying adopted from the Native American culture, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”? Well, I am a very literal person, so that means that I STOLE their shoes! (Also meaning it’s impossible to know 100% what ANOTHER person must feel.) Instead, I like to think of it as:
“Walk down the PATH they’ve walked; then see how YOU feel.”
The moment I start doing that with my students, I develop a much better relationship with them. A kid doesn’t have their homework because they got home late from a swim meet and they were tired? I get it…. I now have a ten year old and I am now walking the walk. Sometimes, it just doesn’t get done.
It’s easier to do that to someone else’s kid because there’s the distance factor… But it’s really easy so say to our own family members, “I AM walking that path.“
But are you???
When was the last time you were smaller than everybody else? When was the last time you had almost ZERO control over your circumstances? When was the last time someone ELSE paid your rent/mortgage and held it against you? Or chose what you had to eat? Or wear?
Hmmmm…. kind of sounds like prison, right?
My point is not to start indulging our kids all the time; but maybe we should stop some times and try to feel their angst. Their pain. Their fear and frustration. Maybe then, we’ll be less likely to judge their actions if we understand what motivates them.
THEN, we can Validate them and work to find some common ground.
Make the #153Promise to Walk their Path.