Hi everyone, I know it’s been a while. I got super busy with a new job and a lack of focus for blogging topics. I needed inspiration and I received it.
Empathy has been cropping up all around me recently. In my new role with Liberty Mutual as a claims adjuster for Safeco insurance, empathy is important if you want to do your job (or at least do it well). I’m currently reading a book called “8 Characteristics of an Awesome Adjuster”. Sounds boring, but it’s very helpful for my job path. There was a part I read recently where the author compared being an adjuster to being a therapist (which is kind of my dream job), and it’s so true! Empathizing with people is something that comes very naturally to me and I’m grateful for that. I’m glad I don’t find myself struggling to feel someone’s pain after their car just got totaled by a 10 point buck or when they were going a little too fast when they hit black ice and spun out, slamming into a guard rail. When people call in a claim, it’s probably one of the worst times in their life. Getting into a car accident is scary and extremely inconvenient, especially during this time of year when everyone is trying to travel for the holidays and now they can’t because their vehicle isn’t able to be driven and they have to find different means of transportation. I feel horrible when I have to tell someone rental isn’t on their policy and they’ll have to pay out of pocket. While they should have been aware of what they elected on their insurance policy, hey, at least there’s a discount through Enterprise if you’re a Safeco customer, right? Yeah, but that’s literally the exact thing I have to try to avoid when I’m talking to people who are on the phone with me.
There is a huge different between empathy and sympathy. Here are the definitions:
Empathy:the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
You can sympathize with someone respectfully and genuinely feel bad that they are going through something tough. When someone is sick, you buy them a sympathy card to show them you care, or if a friend of yours is going through a tough divorce, you’re there to listen, try and cheer them up, get them to look on the bright side. While this is all good and well, how deep are those feelings of compassion you are expressing to them? Does your sympathy for someone else’s pain hit you right in the heart and reflect back to them as such, or is it only skin deep? I’m sure the answer to that question is debatable. That’s fine. I’m just here to point out that as you go through life, trying to connect with people on a deeper level-a level that builds trust, connections, and peace-relies heavily on how well you are able to show true empathy.
I see people’s lack of empathy all around me. I’m guilty of it myself, although it’s been a long time since I haven’t figuratively tried to think of how another person must be feeling before I judge their actions. I have found that if you just step outside yourself for a few minutes, think about someone who is, say, lashing out at you harshly, and try to really feel their struggle and the root of their pain, it’s so much easier to react appropriately. People naturally want to be defensive in situations where they are feeling attacked, but I hate to break it to you that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Things may feel personal, but a lot of times, they aren’t. If you can detach from a situation and you’re able to conclude that that person would have reacted the same way if you were replaced with someone entirely different, then it’s not about you, it’s them. It’s something that person needs to work through to get to a good place. Even if they are taking it out on you personally, that’s no reason to lash back out at them. That kind of reaction, no matter how right it feels, no matter how much you’re able to justify it, is taking the low road and it’s immature. We are adults and we are capable of empathy. It’s not always easy, but it’s right.
I want to be clear on something here. I’m not saying you should let someone crap all over you and not say anything about it. It’s perfectly fine to take a step back and say, “Hey, I understand you’re upset. Talking to me that way isn’t going to help anything, but I am here to listen if you really feel like talking about it.” I know, I know. That sounds like a corny Brady Bunch line, but I swear it makes all the difference. I have been praised in my short time in my new job by the way I’ve reacted to people who were literally cursing at me with every other word on the phone. I have heard other adjusters in the office immediately get defensive with customers who are being verbally offensive and every time I hear it, it blows my mind. They aren’t taking a single minute to think about how that person must be feeling. Someone just smashed into their car because they weren’t looking and ran a red light, they’re upset and shaken up and pissed off. We are one of the first people they speak to because they need help. Help is what we are there to provide, not argument. Try and hear the tremble in their voice and feel the shakiness in their hands. Try to envision what they see or saw at the scene. Try to imagine how that would have made you feel. It’s never right to take anger or hurt out on other people, but we are human and it happens.
This goes for other situations too, of course, not just people lashing out in anger. Sore subjects/sensitive topics: death, illness, infidelity, divorce, conception, miscarriage, exes, children, debt, etc. Friends, family, acquaintances, and complete strangers all have struggles that they are dealing with openly and internally every single day. How they choose to deal with it is one thing and how we choose to react to it is another.
I don’t mean to stand up on a soapbox. Like I said, I’m guilty of lack of empathy myself. I am just extremely aware of it at this point in my life. I think it’s an important thing to be aware of. I am also admittedly a very sensitive person. I understand that it’s easy to take things personally. Empathy for others, though, creates a foundation of the kind of person you project into the world and sometimes a lack thereof can project insensitivity and rudeness, even if it isn’t intentional. Just try it. Think about other people before yourself. Assess situations before speaking, then make an appropriate response. Walk in another person’s shoes and decide on what you think they really need.
Until the next time (hopefully soon)!
Oh, and I’m just going to leave this here. It’s not long at all. Please watch it. I thought it was great. ❤