Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senses and Empathy: Understanding the Experience Both Online and Offline

You may or may not have read the thread I posted called Empathic Senses. This one is a follow up, written to offer a more detailed description of the use of senses in Empathy. And what happens to an Empath when they are working online, and are stripped of the use of their senses, as they are accustomed to using them in the process of Empathy in real time.

The Use of Senses in Empathy

The two most important senses for an Empath working in real time are their eyes and their ears. The others can play their own parts, but are of less significance.

The Eyes

An Empath, who is working in real time, uses their eyes to see minute changes in the physical body of the person they are working with. This is called Reading Body Language and is an important tool within the Empath's arsenal. It offers added information, on top of what is being said by the speaker, and felt by the Empath.

What kinds of things does one look for in this process?

1. Facial Features - How wide are the eyes open? Are the eyes puffy and darkly ringed? Is the mouth tightly closed, as though it were stressed? Does their skin seem pale? Is there sweat coming off them? Are the tips of the ears red? Is there nose red, as though they have been crying?

2. Body Language - Are their hands tightly fisted? Do their palms appear to be sweaty? Are their hands shaky? Is their body, on the whole, shaky? Is their posture slumped? Are their arms folded over themselves, as though to console and/or protect themselves? As they are sitting, are their folded legs pointing toward you or away from you? Is their body pointed toward you or away from you as they speak? Do their shoulders, neck, and back seem tight, as though they are stressed? Do they use their hands alot as they express themselves? Do they has goose flesh? Does their skin seem pale or red? Does their skin seem sweaty or greasy?

Seems like alot to take notice of in such a short span of time, but realize you are doing this unconsciously as you work as an Empath anyway. This is more to bring the mechanics of it to the surface to better understand the process, rather than to teach you something completely foreign and new to you.

The Ears

An Empath uses their ears, particularly during Empathic Listening (active or reflective listening), to pick up the subtle changes in a person's voice. These include, but are not limited to, the rate of their breathing, the heaviness of their breathing, the timber of their voice, the inflection that they use, the tone of their voice (whether free flowing or tight), accented speech which was otherwise unnoticeable, how well they pronounce their words, the words they choose, how they choose to use those words in sentence and paragraph structure, the repetition of words, the speed of speech.

This is another extremely important tool for an Empath working in real time because it adds another dimension to the information they are collecting about the person and their situation. Add this to what is collected with the eyes and the Empathic sense, and one has a deep well base of information from which to draw understanding and to form opinions and formulate resolution plans.

The Other Senses

The other senses, smelling, touching, and tasting, come into play less often in the Empathic experience, but should not be discounted. This is because each offers its on unique perspective into the person you are focused on at the time. And you never know when you might need those things.

Say you sit down to eat a meal prepared by the person who is asking for help. And you have tasted their cuisine before and know their general skill of cooking. Imagine your first bite of this food, and imagine that they have added to much salt, to much pepper, mistakenly exchanged sugar for salt (or vice versa). This is an indication that there is an underlying problem distracting the focus of the person who prepared the food, discovered by your taste buds.

Imagine a hygienic person who is asking for help, who has a horrible smell of sweat. While its true that they could have been working or exercising, its also safe to assume that this was caused by stress brought on by their problem. And in this, your nose becomes an important tool.

Imagine another person asking for help, and as you lay your hands on theirs to offer support, you feel tremors run through their hands. Or you lay your hands on their arms and you feel goose flesh form under your palm. These could be indications of upset and trauma. In this, your hands become an important tool, as well.

The Online Empath

You know the difference between an Empath working in real time and an Online Empath. Even if you don't consciously realize it, you know the difference because you have been through it yourself. So what is it?

What Is Missing

The Online Empath loses some of the tools that they are able to rely on in real time, and in the process gains others in exchange. These tools in question are the Senses, at least as described above. There is no physical body, which means there is no body language from which the Empath can draw from in understanding. There are only words. (Understand that we are speaking of text based communication here, and not video or online verbal communication)

So now that you know what is lost, lets look at what is gained with working empathically online.

What is Gained

An Online Empath, when acclimated to the online world, uses what tools are available to them, but they become enhanced. These include Empathic Emotional Sensing, the eyes, and the imagination. And of course an Empath's innate cognitive abilities to process all of these things as a whole (which is used both online and in real time).

Since this thread is about the senses, we will skip over the Empathic Emotional Sensing ability that we all have. It is understood, I think, by all of us to a certain degree. ^_^

And so we move onto the Eyes, yet again. Here, instead of reading body language, your eyes do the work of what your ears normally do in real time. They read the words the speaker is writing, and process them the way the ears do. They judge based on words used, punctuation (or lack there of), spelling, grammar, the use of abbreviations, sentence and paragraph structure, and the overall sentiment being expressed. This is called Linguistic Empathy (a concept I've written about in another thread).

Next comes the imagination. Empaths, more often than not, have a penchant for writing, watching movies, and reading books that are all heavy laden with emotion. This helps to broaden the Empath's imaginative capabilities.

Because of this focused use of imagination, it is still easy for the Empath who works online to place themselves in another's shoes and see through their eyes based on the other person's words. Its as easy as reading a first person perspective book. Its the same process one does in real time, save for where the description comes from. In real time it is verbal, online it is written.

All of these abilities are changed and/or enhanced because of the change in environment and means of interaction. This does not change your purpose. It only changes the way you go about achieving that purpose. ^_^

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