often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening
ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the
potential to turn a life around."
-- Leo F. Buscaglia
empathic way of being with another person has several facets. It means
entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at
home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment to moment, to the changing
felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness
or confusion or whatever he or she is experiencing.
means temporarily living in the other's life, moving about in it delicately
without making judgments; it means sensing meanings of which he or she is
scarcely aware, but not trying to uncover totally unconscious feelings, since
this would be too threatening. It includes communicating your sensings of
the person's world as you look with fresh and unfrightened eyes at elements of
which he or she is fearful. It means frequently checking with the person
as to the accuracy of your sensings, and being guided by the responses you
are a confident companion to the person in his or her inner world. By
pointing to the possible meanings in the flow of another person's experiencing,
you help the other to focus on this useful type of referent, to experience the
meanings more fully, and to move forward in the experiencing.
be with another in this way means that for the time being, you lay aside your
own views and values in order to enter another's world without prejudice.
In some sense, it means that you lay aside yourself; this can only be done by
persons who are secure enough in themselves that they know they will not get
lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other, and
that they can comfortably return to their own world when they wish.
Rogers (1902-1987). Excerpt from "A Way of Being"
is the opposite of projection. In empathy we respect the core of the
other; in projection we invade and displace it with our own. In empathic
resonance to the core of others, we make fewer inferences, judgments, and
interpretations. In other words, we bring more mindfulness into our
have met people who label themselves "empaths," but it seems to be a
thinly disguised excuse for
them to project and air their own baggage. This gets in the way of genuine
relating, and it feels violative to be on the receiving end of it. There's
nothing worse than someone telling you they "know how you feel" when
you know with every molecule of your body that they don't. Such
experiences rob one of their soul.
are some examples from someone who is always telling others she "knows how
know your pain, Rosanne, and I wish you didn't have to go through this kind of
thing. I can relate to keeping to yourself, sometimes it feels safer that way.
Don't give up though! We all still think you're cool and have impeccable
qualifications to be here!"
this author never seems to relate to others, but only to her OWN
experience. It's very discounting
share your pain, Sharon."
fought this same battle myself, and it was really, really hard. I know
it's not easy, oh how I know. I'm praying for you, Marsha, I know so
well what this all feels like. Yes, it is a very visceral, painful
how it subtly stops being about the other person, and becomes about the author
instead. This shows how empathy is not really occurring, but has instead
become an opportunity for projection. This is a danger with extraverted
In his latest book,
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, the prolific social scientist Daniel Goleman talks in some depth about the latest findings on empathy. Specifically, Goleman speaks about three levels of
The basic level of empathy is achieved when one becomes aware of what another person is feeling. If you cannot discern the nuances of another's emotions and moods, it is very hard to connect constructively.
The next level of empathy allows you to connect by "feeling into" what another person feels. When we allow ourselves to slow down, pay attention and truly share someone else's emotional experience, we can begin to understand their perspective much clearer.
The final level of empathy is being able to respond compassionately to what another feels. Beyond our natural human tendencies (to agree/disagree/judge/"fix"/influence), responding to someone else's emotional truth with patience and compassion creates a connection from which powerful change can occur.
If you want to be a better
Catalyst, I encourage you to practice deepening your empathy. What can you do today to slow down and really connect with someone special in your life?
be able to listen -- really, wholly, passively, self-effacingly listen --
without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating,
approving or disapproving, without dueling with what is being said, without
rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of
what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all -- such
listening is rare.
is a quality many of us believe we have. After all, we are not a society
of insensitive robots!
then, ironically, many INFJs get tagged with the label of "codependent"
for experiencing the degree of empathy they do. If you click on the
following link, it will take you to a codependency "evaluation."
I put gray borders on the items I feel reflect the behaviors of one who actually has preferences for Fe. See how well you
score. The link is here.
Feeling is "building trust through giving relationships." It's a
way to give and receive in order to grow closer. It's acting
on the empathy we feel, and doing something with it.
the process of extraverted Feeling starts with entering an empathic mode in order to read others' needs and take on
their needs and values as our own. We can refer to, align, refine, and
apply a relationship. Applying often means giving and receiving support to grow
evaluate our giving relationship by asking, "do we both love, trust, and
respect each other?" It emphasizes "giving" for its own
Feeling draws out other people's beliefs, emotions, or ideas, and tends to focus
on what is shared. Often, extraverted Feeling will share personal
information in an attempt to bond with other people. After identifying
other people's needs, extraverted Feeling will try, when possible, to meet those
needs -- frequently at the expense of meeting its own needs.
with well-developed extraverted Feeling actively find out what each significant
person in their lives wants and tries to fulfill that need, even at great cost
to their own needs and/or psychic harmony. At the extreme, extraverted
Feeling completely surrenders its own needs in order to meet another person's
needs, even sacrificing its own needs to achieve this overriding focus!
Sometimes I think this is a marvelous intelligence that came with a
curse attached to it. Fe becomes a problem when we keep giving at the
expense of our own needs getting met. (Here's another
assessment to evaluate whether we have slipped into martyrdom.)
extraverted feeling asks us to be personal, compassionate, and lacking hard
boundaries, which may cause us to lose ourselves in others' needs and
values. (Dario warns that people who favor Fe may be viewed as
"chumps" by unscrupulous people.)
remember an INFP friend remarking that he would gladly throw a rope down in a
hole to help somebody out, but he wouldn't get down in the hole with them.
My track record says I'll get down in the hole with them, bring candy and a CD
player, and have them take a break while I take over shoveling them out.
in college my freshman year I started feeling an anxiety that wouldn't go
away. It was so severe that I went to a school counselor about it. I
told her I kept worrying about my family -- whether or not they were okay.
She told me I should just forget about my family and concentrate on my
That's how people often react to expressions of extraverted
Feeling, by telling us to improve our use of introverted Feeling -- to be
SELF-centered rather than other-centered.
been taken advantage of so many times I must have a tattoo on me somewhere begging
for it. And I'm not talking about minor things -- I'm talking about lots
of money and effort. I've nothing to show for plenty of blood, sweat, and
tears -- even I feel shock over just how much I've been taken for.
A friend of mine trying to decide whether his preferences were for
INFJ or INFP told me he had a roommate one time that he had a crush on.
And he ended up covering her rent and her bills when she went through some hard
times. He did it because he was interested in her romantically, and was
hoping his generosity would pay off. It didn't, and she had it out with
him and moved out. She also paid him back -- every dime she owed
him. And I remember thinking, "You must not be INFJ, because you
wouldn't have gotten paid back if you were." Isn't that
funny.....? (And yes, he later decided his preferences were for INFP.)
it helps you to read these horror stories, let me know on my feedback form and
I'll post more of them. Believe me, I could write a whole book of sad
tales like these alone. Isn't it funny how helping others leaves us
feeling bad? Like we did something shameful? What is that
about? Shouldn't they be the ones to feel shame, for taking advantage and
not appreciating and honoring those who did helped them?
diminishes when I am betrayed by friends I have helped and trusted.
of Self-Esteem, Bonnie J. Golden
its advanced use, Dario says that Fe connects and interacts with whole groups as
if they are one unit, reading people's feelings, values, and interests as a
single entity and translating them into cultural norms. I'll say more
about that down the road.
order to smoothly relate to other people, extraverted Feeling internalizes
cultural values, treats them as if they are personal values, and uses them to
drive decisions. When functioning in a group or on a team, extraverted
Feeling seeks to maintain group harmony and makes sure each person is recognized
and taken care of.
extraverted Feeling attempts to educate other people as to appropriate behaviors
in given situations.
use Fe in the outer world, and it manifests through their auxiliary process.
They use it as a "good parent" would -- helping others, possibly
coaching people about how to behave in sticky situations or how to best treat
others. They often feel a sense of "oneness with others," and find it
easy to give -- or withhold -- praise, warmth, and respect to people's feelings
I think INFJs got a "double dose" of the Good Parent archetype.
Here's why: Fe seems the very embodiment of the empathic "good
parent," and it coincidentally resides in the auxiliary position for INFJs
-- the Good Parent archetype according to Beebe's model. So it's a Good
Parent process in a Good Parent position, so we must be double dosed with this
Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our
- Fritz Williams
are spectators; empathizers wear game shoes.
sensitive to the plight of others. You have to know about the tragedies as well
as the triumphs, the failures as well as the success."
-- Jim Rohn
"How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young,
compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the
weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of
-- George Washington Carver
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