Having Empathy for People Who Make Mistakes

April 10, 2019

Empathy is a skill, meaning you can improve upon it with sufficient effort and time. It is easy to have empathy when no foul play was involved, but how do you find empathy when someone has made a mistake? This is where things get a little trickier. It is extremely difficult to find empathy with people who have done you wrong, but these are the people who may need it the most.

 

 Photo: Nick Fewings on Unsplash 

 

Empathy is what allows us to walk in others’ shoes and to understand how they must be feeling in the context of their situation. The following exercise is a great way to practice having empathy for others. Take a moment and try to imagine if you were the person that made the mistake. How do you think that person feels? What do you think you would do in the other’s situation? The key to this exercise is coming to an acceptance that you are not the other person, and this other person is not you. This means that the side you are seeing is only a glimpse of who this other person is. Other people have their own problems that you will never be able to fully understand. That is okay. Empathy is crucial to solving problems within a relationship when someone has made a mistake. This technique could possibly help you overcome an issue within your own relationship.

 

When someone has done you wrong, the first step to forgiveness is accepting that nothing you (or anyone else) say or do is going to change the past. Accept what has happened with rationality and clarity so that you can validate and acknowledge the mistake that has been made. This is important because complete and utter acceptance has to occur before forgiveness can begin to work its wonderful magic on you. Forgiveness enables a further sense of empathy, just as empathy aids in the process of forgiving. It is a complex process with the codependency of empathy and forgiveness as the driving force.

 

After you have accepted that this mistake can never be taken away or altered in any way, finding empathy is the next step on your journey to forgiveness. Find a connection with this person that can help you to build that bridge between you and this person. Cultivating compassion for other people helps you find empathy for those who make mistakes. Finding empathy will not only benefit the person who made the mistake, but it will also benefit you in clearing your conscience of grudges and bitterness. Embracing empathy can also help you deal with difficult people in a way that is effective, kind, and balanced.

 

Finding empathy can be extremely difficult for some people, so here are some tips to help. First, try reflecting. Reflect on the mistake that was made. Why is it making you feel this way? Why do you think it ever happened in the first place? What should have been done instead? Why? How would that have changed things? Have you ever made a mistake similar to this one? It may help to write these things down and read them out loud. Reflecting and validating your emotions like this can be extremely helpful in the journey of discovering empathy.  

 

Another tip to finding empathy is trying to understand why this person made the mistake. Try and identify the events leading up to the event, or even pieces from the other person’s childhood that might be key factors in why this person is behaving in this way. Try and understand the emotional state the other person was in while making the mistake. Really delve into this activity by closing your eyes and imagining that you are the person who has done you wrong. This is a great technique to try when you are having trouble relating to someone who made a mistake.

 

I hope this article leads you to the empathy and understanding that you need to get over this conflict. Finding empathy can be challenging, but it is well worth it. Obtaining empathy is a process that takes a decent amount of time, but with sufficient effort this journey will be more than beneficial for you.

 

Jaimy aspires to be a relative voice to other young adults like her. As a Haitian-American first-generation college graduate, she knows that the complicated journey she's been on to get to where she's at now is the same story for many others. She challenges the status quo by going after what she truly believes in which is having the opportunity to be creative while unapologetically pursuing your passion and not conforming to what everyone else deems is right for you. Jaimy loves to read, stay active, and spend time with the people she loves.

 

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