Leaning in to vulnerability, empathy in conversation, stepping into others’ distress are all actively advocated to handling workplace toxicity, but is experiencing someone’s suffering helpful in the long term? Studies have shown empathetic distress actually leads to burnout, discrimination and apathy. We feel for the victim and take sides of ‘right and wrong’ and getting emotionally embroiled ourselves, is this the right place to make a decision from?
Empathy can be highly transformation, particularly when we are listening empathetically rather than speaking from a place of empathy. When we listen with empathy we allow a safe place for others, they feel that they can openly talk and share the multi dimensions of hurt they are facing, this becomes a springboard of awareness as they are able to bring more clear as to what is the actual root of the problem is. However, when we converse with empathy we take the stance that ‘you are right, I have been there, it’s a tough place’, this may cause further despondency and does not motivate action.
It’s hard to know what to say in difficult conversation, but if we are hung up on our own response, are we truly listening? Your presence of being there for that person is what gives them most reprieve, planning your words of consolation takes the focus off of them and back onto you, when we are being there for others, we do so with a quiet mind and an open heart. Many times we want to ‘hack’ the system, give them what they want to hear so they can go off feeling an instant (yet short-lived) relief without doing the work. Our problems are gateways of wisdom, they channel our focus on what is it within us that has caused us to feel jilted, what are the beliefs I’m holding on to that are limiting my growth? What do I need to re-wire in myself to feel content, is it something I need to unlearn, accept or put effort into action? This takes courage to enter the cobwebs of our mind but doing the legwork will reward you with a much more inspired and sustainable sense of self.
Each problem is different and each person is different, there is no ‘quick fix’ solutions, every time we ignore the problem you will find it will show up at a bigger scale in the future, there’s no running away. Instilling a sense of courage and urgency to confronting our own falsehoods helps us create more meaningful relationships, with ourselves and each other. This is why meditation is purported to have a massive impact on inter and intra personal relationships, we choose to confront our mind each day, accepting what comes up and letting go of thoughts that no longer serve us. The more we exercise this muscle personally the more we can stand in that truth when dealing with relationships. Some people are looking for inspiration, some for space others for guidance based on your experience. The best way to help others in sticky situations is to simply ask them ‘how can I help you through this?’ you’ll gain a sense of freedom from the pressure of conjuring up the exact recipe for their happiness and instead you give them the ownership and responsibility to be the problem solver.
The yoga sutras state that to truly help another we must be first centred in ourselves, if conversations are taking away your mental tranquillity first it is important to learn to feel stable within before making any judgements or acting out emotionally. When we are calm within we inspire the same in others, we can be of better service to those in need coming from a place of compassion and clarity.