I experienced the power of empathy.
This story takes me back quite a few years. I had been aware of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and personally experienced the true magic of receiving empathy, but it was still quite new to me.
I found a little parking spot during a busy time of the year in High Street, Motueka. I needed to parallel park but wasn’t completely present and relaxed (or I could say: I was rushed!). My side of the van hit the back corner of a car that was parked. When I got out I was greeted – with an angry voice – by the owner of the car. Something along the lines of: “Look what you did, you need to be more careful.”
To this day, I still don’t quite know how I was able to access my newly found NVC skills instead of going into my habitual pattern of defence or sympathy.
I made a guess to the car owner: “Gosh, I imagine you are really annoyed that I hit your car eh? You wanted me to be more aware and careful?”
His reply was (with less anger in his voice): “Yes, too right, this is so unfortunate, now I have to deal with this on top of everything else”.
So I said: “Sounds like you are busy enough already and now life gives you another thing to deal with?”
He continued: “Yes, I’m moving today and I just came to town to do a few errands and then this happens.”
By this time all his anger had gone and he was merely sharing what was going on for him. After a few more exchanges and when I had the sense that he had been fully heard and acknowledged I started talking about strategies to support the ‘fixing’ of my action (insurance details). Then he said that the car was actually really old, had many bumps and scratches and that he didn’t really care too much and wouldn’t bother with insurance.
I was keen for him to still take my details in case he had different thoughts come up later, but I never heard back from him. That I ended up not paying any money in this case, is insignificant for my story, I would have gladly done so.
I was really blown away by the whole experience and it supported me in my quest to bring more empathy into the world.
I have compared my capacity to give empathy as the flexing of a muscle… it needs practice to get stronger and stronger.