Empathy. Walking in someone else’s shoes. Taking a peek at the world from another point of view. It’s a lesson parents begin teaching early because we know it can make both people feel better about exactly where they stand — and more thoroughly value each other.
This is particularly important in a long-term relationship. Because caring about your life partner’s perspective as much as your own can make the difference between a rocky relationship and a rock-solid one.
What you may not know is that while empathizing with a partner’s frustration or pain can strengthen a relationship, so can sharing feelings of happiness.
In fact, emerging research suggests that sharing empathy in relationships during good times has an even greater positive impact than sharing the bad. Why not give it a shot?
How to Foster Positive Empathy in Relationships
The key to creating empathy within yourself is observation. While noticing when your partner is feeling down is probably easier, watch for signs that they are happy, too.
Figuring out how to share those emotions is just as important, if not more so. Below, learn three ways to better tune in to the cues between you.
Feel the Good Vibes Flowing
Find the good vibes. Often, even before you hear or see your partner’s face, you probably have an inexplicable sense of how they’re feeling. This is especially true when something’s wrong.
Ever said about your partner something along the lines of, “Oh, they’re in some kind of mood”? Yes, that’s the sensation you’re looking for, but try and actively feel the good vibes, too. Once you do, tune-in with the rest of your senses, starting with your ears.
Listen to Your Partner Well
Be a good listener. Quiet your mind and focus on what your partner is saying, the inflection they are using, and seek out changes that might signal joy. While you’re listening, fight the urge to respond. Pretend you will never actually give a comment on what you see, and you may be surprised at how much more you will actually hear!
Furthermore, when it is time to speak, demonstrate what you’ve observed by asking good questions, repeating what they’ve said in your own words, and offering a way to connect.
Then… watch what happens.
Watch Their Reaction… And Your Own
Think about how good it feels to be heard and understood. Now think about what a sense of joy does to you physically. We bet taking just those two steps will create a whirlwind of happiness between the two of you that may even rival the earliest days of your relationship.
Initially, the positive flow may be short-lived depending on the gravity between you, but with a little time and practice, your bond will become noticeably strengthened.
Once you try, if you’re still not sure whether you’re connecting the way you expect, reach out to Norene Gonsiewski and Tim Higdon for advice!