Are you looking for a solution to avoid the empathy trap? Yes, empathy makes us kinder and more emotionally intelligent people. We all want to master it, pass it on to our children and our significant others to be experts at it.
Sometimes I feel a little trapped in empathy—this feeling of stuckness I have been particularly feeling during the pandemic, but also rebelling against it. As a business owner, I had to pivot beyond the imaginable; think of it, a small event company that operates in beautiful locations for people from all over the world to immerse themselves in NLP, emotional intelligence, and positive psychology training. In places like Bali, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and Miami. And meanwhile, a person with a double income in their household wants you to pity them because they can not go out for a drink or the grand tragedy of not being able to go on vacation! Honestly, I was getting stabby.
The empathy trap
Where it is normal to step into another person’s shoes if you love them, empathy and giving is an important cornerstone of any relationship that has real meaning is what I teach during emotional intelligence training. Should you also always step into the shoes of anyone who experiences pain or the inability to cope?
I don’t think so. I prefer to tell things like they are rather than giving love and kindness to victim-based thinking.
If there are two options:
- Wonder why something bad is happening to me.
- Wonder what I can do to stop the pain impulse or what coping strategy I could harness?
I pick the latter. And I expect others to do so as well. This means I do not give their self-victimization love or air-time. I will give their creative ideas to power on through and solve things, all of my hugs and kisses.
To put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we must balance emotion and think between ourselves and others.
While our intelligence is something, we are born with and fixed. Our emotional intelligence can be cultivated and increased. We do this through practice and learning. This allows us to be happier and more effective human beings. When professional coaches tell me that they never officially studied emotional intelligence, I do not hire them. If you are interested in hiring an emotional intelligence-trained coach, send me a note, and I will be happy to recommend you a student of mine. Do indicate your location and tell me a little bit about yourself.
Solution to avoid the empathy trap using emotional intelligence
Set 45-minutes of time aside to focus on the following questions you an do this:
3. Sitting in nature or someplace quiet.
In this session, you will first focus on knowing if you are trapped in empathy or not:
– Do you adopt other people’s feelings as your own?
– Do you spend more time thinking about other people’s feelings than your own?
– Do you offer people during a fight what they want and give up your own needs and desires?
– After the fight is over, do you get stuck on what that person was feeling and thinking?
– Do you believe other people’s feelings outweigh yours?
Then do the below visualization:
See the other person and you on a movie screen and watch the scenario you give or gave empathy. This is a place of non-emotion. What specifically do you learn?
Then imagine another person in that same situation, who was kind and to a degree empathetic but took care of their own needs and feelings. What do you learn? What were the benefits of doing this?
Float your awareness into your own shoes, and apply what you learned. See what you would see, hear what you would hear, and feel what you would feel.
Repeat any time you get stuck in the empathy trap, or even better, when you know you are about to step into a context where you may. If you are a coach, this is also a wonderful exercise to give your clients.
This exercise combines NLP & emotional intelligence beautifully to start permanently resolving getting trapped inside empathy.
The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success – Steven J. J. Stein, Ph.D