But as I mentioned, nobody can avoid shame. It is a universal human experience and the important thing to do is to become shame resilient. Brené Brown, in her research on shame and vulnerability, has identified empathy as playing a very large factor in our recovery from a wave of shame.
What is empathy? And, how is it different from sympathy? Because, the two are quite different and it’s important that when you are feeling shame and seeking empathy, that you know who has that important skill and who just doesn’t get it.
Here’s a quick (less than 3 minutes) and cute video that does a great job of explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy
The summary: empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and validating their experience, while sympathy is feeling bad for that person.
Empathy is the great connector. When you share something you feel badly about and the other person says, ‘I know. I’ve done that. I know it feels terrible and I’m sorry you have to feel that way now,’ you can relax. You’re not being judged, you’re being validated.
Sympathy, however, does not validate you. Sympathy is a way of saying, ‘Boy I’m glad it’s you and not me.’ And most of the time, that does not feel good – it feels empty and disconnecting.
Empathy is something that you seek from others, and offer to others when they need it. So, it’s important to know who can offer empathy to you, who you can trust with your story. Brené Brown says, ‘someone has to earn the right to hear your story.’
Who do you go to for validation and empathy? I hope you have at least one or two folks in your life that can do that for you. Who do you trust to hear your story? And, how good are you at empathy?
For more on these topics read about the Marble Jar and the Relationship Target.
Image Credit: RSA Shorts Video Screen Shot