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Empathy & Perception

Empathy is an important aspect of emotional intelligence (EQ). Having empathy means being able to understand other people’s emotions. Perception is an important part of empathy. Our perception is how we experience the world. This is different for each and every one of us, because it’s based upon many individual factors- our upbringing, family dynamics, our belief system, morals, values, culture and basically the totality of all of our past experiences. 

This is why we all view things differently. This makes life a very subjective experience. What could feel good to me, may feel bad for you. What could look pretty to me, could look ugly to you. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Having emotional intelligence means that we have an understanding that our experience isn’t the only experience and that we all experience things differently. 

To take it another step further, having high emotional intelligence means being able to understand the perception of others from their point of view. This would be like the concept of being able to put ourselves in other peoples' shoes. 

Our first perception of someone else’s experience is usually how we would feel if the same thing happened to us. That’s a natural, human instinct. So it may take more of a  conscious effort to imagine what it could feel like for another person. For example, you may have been elated to find out you were pregnant but someone else may be terrified. You may have been devastated about your divorce while another celebrates. You may be proud of yourself for that new promotion when someone else feels they don’t deserve it.

To be perceptive is to be able to accurately “read” or assess someone’s emotional state. And it’s not as straightforward as being able to tell if someone is happy or sad. It’s much more subtle than that:

  • Are they annoyed or angry? 

  • Are they anxious or scared? 

  • Are they shy or guarded?

These are subtle differences along the emotional continuum but being able to read the difference would change how you interact with that person. 

  • If someone is annoyed we know we can still try to talk and rationalize with them. If they’re angry, we may want to leave them alone and give them space. 

  • If someone is anxious, that tells me it’s an internal feeling that they may not have control over so the conversation would be more about meeting them where they’re at and being more accepting as opposed to someone feeling scared. Fear is usually caused by something external that they may be able to overcome with some support or encouragement. 

  • If someone is shy you can help them become more comfortable by welcoming them and making an effort to include them. However, if you do this to someone who’s guarded you could be coming on too strongly and it could feel threatening to the person. 

Being perceptive allows us to better interact, communicate, understand and empathize with people. It makes us more relatable, more likable, easier to talk to. This makes us, not only, more successful at work but in life in general by having deeper connections with people and stronger, healthier relationships. 

From both a psychological and spiritual perspective, our perception creates our reality. Psychologically, our senses take in information through our senses and our mind interprets it… creating our perception. Spiritually speaking, whatever we perceive becomes our reality… meaning we actually manifest our perception into reality. This means we have the power to create and change our own reality. There is no actual reality because my reality may not be your reality. Reality is a matter of perspective. 

This is the concept behind optical illusions. If you want to test this out, search the internet for “optical illusion pictures” and you should find a bunch of examples. A more famous one, is the picture below of a woman. What do you see? Look careful. Do you see an old woman or a young woman? Try to see both of them.

What people perceive says a lot about them so watch, listen and pay attention. This will allow you to have a deeper understanding and empathy for people and the world in which we live.

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