Would you like to know if you are an empath? Or are you curious how to deal with being one? Learn more what it means to be an empath and how everyone can boost empathy.
What is an Empath?
There are many myths around people who feel things others might not be aware of. Some say they have supernatural powers even so this is never the case. To put it in simple words empaths simply have extreme empathy.
The reason is that they have unconsciously trained their ability to feel what others feel. Only the so-called psychic empaths have developed a more intuitive connection with their environment and can pick up more clues from their surroundings. All good hunters have developed this ability because spending so much time in nature has helped them to train their senses much more than a city person ever could.
To broaden our understanding of the secret abilities of empaths we need to put it into a bigger context. An empath is a highly cognitive person who can sense what others are thinking and feeling. Or to put simply: someone with a high level of empathy.
What is Empathy?
Before we define empathy we need to understand it`s origin. According to the Atlantic it came only into being about a century ago. It is a translation from the German word “Einfühlung”. However in 1908 two psychologists from Cornell and the University of Cambridge suggested “empathy” for Einfühlung, drawing on the Greek “em” for “in” and “pathos” for “feeling,” and it stuck.
This leads us to an easy empathy definition: empathy is the ability to feel what others feel.
Most of us might have stepped over this word while talking about emotional intelligence.
A common question is: what are the five components of emotional intelligence?
- Self Regulation
- Social Skills
Empathy is obviously one characteristic of emotional intelligence. Only how does it work?
The Science Behind Empathy
The “secret weapon” of empaths are so-called mirror neurons. Those neurons in the frontal lobe of the brain that – in the case of empathy – they fire when we watch others, for example, when we watch someone cutting themselves with a kitchen knife, we can feel the pain of the other person – although it is certainly less. The difference between “normal people” and empaths is the intensity of how strong this feeling is.
What Are the Signs of an Empath
How do you know if you are an empath? Most of us have a certain feeling that they might be “different” or have the special gift of being an empath. Have you ever asked yourself: am I an empath? Here are five signs that can help you to identify your special talent.
Empaths take comfort in nature.
The busyness of everyday life is a challenge for every empath. Thus one of the most common questions of empathic people is: how do i protect myself as an empath? Empaths need sources to regenerate much more than others. So nature is a perfect escape for them. The reason is that the natural world is filled with silence and peace that empaths usually crave.
Empaths should try to find their perfect nature spot: for some it could be the sound of water, Others urgently need the presence of trees and the color green to surround them. One of the most famous empaths is Mother Teresa.
Here is an inspiring empathy quotes by Mother Teresa that empaths might find very helpful:
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence….we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Empaths have good listening skills.
To feel what others feel, empaths have many ways of gathering information. One of their secret tools is listening carefully to others by doing the following:
- Sum up information to check if they have understood everything correctly
- Listen to see if everything really makes sense
- Question if something doesn’t feel right
- Listen to the tone of voice to understand the underlying emotion of the speaker: For example they recognize tone disharmony in spoken words to identify false laughter or nods.
One reason why empathic people are good listeners, is because they can identify “key words”. These are words that reveal what really matters to the people telling the stories.
Empaths have very good intuition.
Empaths tend to be able to pick up on subtle cues that provide insight to the thoughts of others. As Christian Keysers says in his book “The Empathic Brain”: “the process of how to understand another person is not a logical but an intuitive one. Through studying others and paying attention to those clues, they access their gut feelings more than others. This makes empaths especially valuable in business.”
As Gary Klein, the scientist and author of “The Power of Intuition” writes in his book: “The world is too complex to think ahead using careful analysis of situations. We have to rely on our intuitions instead”. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman acknowledges in his bestseller “Thinking Fast and Slow”. Including intuitions when making uncertain decisions, or deciding which data is relevant when there is too much that is important. “Whatever else it produces, an organization is a factory that manufactures judgments and decisions”.
Thus to optimize success every organization should consider including empaths in key decision making.
Empaths are experts in nonverbal communication.
Most empaths have the gift to understand nonverbal communication naturally. They interpret gestures, facial expressions, the tone of voice, eye contact (or lack thereof), body language, posture, and other ways people can communicate without using language.
Some empaths have a trained capacity to pay attention to body language. They are focused on three different parts of the body:
- Eyes: Some people say that the eyes are the gate to the soul, which means that they say a lot about how we feel inside. Eyes can express emotions like fear and especially enthusiasm. Try to ask people what they enjoy most and their eyes will light up. Ask them what they fear most and they usually look down. An empath knows that eyes are the best way to connect with others.
- Arms: crossing arms is a typical way to create distance between people. People who like hugging others express the courage of openness and the will to be close and truly connect.
- Face: Empaths can see in other people’s faces what others only see when they use emojis. They can quickly tell if the corners of their mouths are up or down. The face also tells us if a person is under pressure and/or stressed out.
Empaths are usually introverted.
Empaths are perfect observers. They enjoy watching people. Observing the way others talk, move or act is more than a passion for them. They also like to study situations first before getting involved. After assessing the situation, they like to participate as they have great social skills and know how to connect with others.
An empath prefers silence to noise and can perfectly entertain themselves over time – just by watching and listening. After assessing the situation, they like to participate as they have great social skills and know how to connect with others.
Are You An Empath?
What is the best way to find out if you are an empath? Take an empath test. The world famous psychiatrist Judith Orloff is the “queen of today`s empath movement”. She has developed an amazing self-assessment test to help you on your empath journey.
Her bestseller The Empath’s Survival Guide inspires readers to a better awareness of their empathy gift. Her fans can also learn what being an empath in a relationship requires. Orloff has a wonderful way of encouraging her readers to set boundaries – especially in toxic relationships. In her beautiful article “why empaths and narcissists make a toxic partnership”,
All empaths start to understand why people take advantage of their compassion and understanding for others.
How Do I Stop Being an Empath?
If you are tired of being an empath, try to: pay less attention to your senses. And make sure you keep away from crowds. The less stimulating the surrounding, the less information you will get.
Furthermore I would suggest to regularly ask yourself if the emotions you feel belong to you or others. Because empaths are like sponges they need to learn to differentiate their own emotions from the emotions of others.
It is also possible to guide concentration to focus on yourself instead on constantly picking up information from your surroundings.
Try to understand your roles in life. Just because you feel what others feel or even think doesn’t mean you are responsible for their problems. Most of the time our loved ones just need someone that listens and gives them the feeling that someone understands them, and that it is safe to share what truly bothers them. The empath to give the storyteller the feeling that they are absolutely capable of solving their own problems and find their right path. This is the best way to protect yourself as an empath.
3 Things for an Empath Training
Are you interested in feeling more what others feel? No matter if your goal is to become an empath, or just increase your level of empathy, here are three ideas:
- Train your listening skills:
By paying attention to tone of voice and key words like “I” and “you”, or information about emotions people mention, you can learn a lot. You might have also noticed that some people have a false laugh, which is very common in people who simply try to please others.
- Start studying people’s face mimic
Have you ever had a situation when you were laughing and someone looked at you in a manner that made your laughter simply freeze? That was probably a sign of disapproval because the other person found your laughter inappropriate. When you tell someone a story, pay attention to their eyes, mouth and head movement.
- Start to pay attention to your gut feeling
One of my favorite games to play is to mention that I have stopped doing something when my gut feeling says no. I tell them a story where I stepped over my gut feeling and really regretted it afterwards. The reaction I get is always the same: people always nod their head to confirm that they think my way of handling the situation makes total sense. It is simple: pay attention to that gut feeling before taking the next step, and check if there is something we need to do or see before making a decision. Some people find it helpful to start communicating with their gut by asking it questions like:” is there a reason for not doing this or that.”
Gut instincts in relationships of any kind are very important.
A friend of mine is a heart surgeon. He is brilliant and has a nationwide reputation. Before every operation he has a very personal talk to his patients. He listens very carefully. And at the end of his conversation he suggests every patient: follow your gut. This is especially important for the patients who see the operation negatively. He has learned the importance for those people to trust their gut instinct.. The reason is that he had observed that the outcome of those operations often turned to result in deaths of the patients.
Is it Rare to be an Empath
Empaths are not rare. It is just that many of us are not aware of our talents and thus don’t use them the way we could. My estimation is that about 20 percent of us are potential empaths. Only 5 percent of us are using their gift.
Another common question I get asked regularly is: why am I an empath? The Canadian Psychologist and Neuroscientist Donald Hebb (1904-1985) discovered that certain childhood experiences cause special areas of our brains to develop.
My thesis is that our surroundings have a far bigger impact on our ability to develop and use our natural talents than we had thought. This doesn`t necessarily mean for example that kids need parents that take them to as many classes as possible. It means that growth, no matter if in adults or children, requires a surrounding that meets our emotional needs
For some of us this means having more peace. For others it means that they might need intellectual stimulation.
Emotional stability is a key to high performance. Some of us are more sensitive to our outside circumstances than others and feel disturbed easily. Whereas others are so much in tune with themselves and their ideas that they can unfold their talents more easily. About 80 percent of us depend on stability around us, whereas the rest is pretty self sufficient.
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Are you excited to learn more about people around you? Would you maybe like to be more empathetic in your relationships? Life is about learning how to use your natural talents. If you want to know how to become a stronger empath, try our empathy exercises.
Learning to understand how others feel can be highly rewarding.
Be sure – You will love what you can be!