Empathy and Compromise ~ by Marj Ivancic

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“They” say one of the keys to a successful relationship is compromise. But people rarely talk about the role of empathy in negotiating a healthy compromise. 

I think it’s because many people don’t really understand what empathy is. It is often confused with sympathy, which is all about sharing or partaking in someone else’s feelings. Or empathy is seen as a weakness or softness.

But empathy is neither of those things. You don’t have to feel the
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same as someone else or agree with their point of view. And it doesn’t mean you give in or surrender. Instead, it means you understand WHY someone might have a particular emotional response or hold certain a belief. You’ve listened and heard their thought process. You know the inputs that would result in that output.

Think of all the things in your life that have gone into building your opinions and stances, either directly or indirectly. Upbringing, past life events, current life events, media influences, familial influences—the list is extensive. So much goes into building who we are. 

But once you understand how all those pieces of a person fit together, you can find the truest common ground, one that leaves everyone feeling respected and whole. It may even lead to an opportunity to educate or to enlighten one or both parties.

Empathy certainly is not easy. Especially when passions are high. I think it requires an element of detachment from one’s own emotions, which is why it usually comes after an argument, after you’ve had time to think. 

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It requires practice and discipline to suspend judgement and imagine what you would do or think if you were in that person’s shoes. But if all parties would do so, there’s a chance that while they may never agree, they may at least feel truly heard and maybe even a little respected.



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