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Throughout the many different relationships and people, we meet in our lives, we sometimes become selfish and forget to think about others. We begin to lose focus on others and forget about their own needs, feelings and thoughts. We tend to go through stages in our lives of no longer practicing seeing things from someone else’s perspective. People begin to forget that others have completely different thoughts than us, different emotions and especially different experiences than what we have. It is rather important to practice the habit of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to become other-oriented. By seeing the world through someone else’s perspective, we then get a better understanding of what is going on and what that person is going through. “Being other-oriented requires awareness of the thoughts, needs, experiences, personality, emotions, motives, desire, culture, and goals of your communications partners while still maintaining your own integrity” (Beebe 2). By being other-oriented, people empathize, adapt, and relate to others which causes for a greater understanding. This idea of being aware of others may come across as overwhelming, but with anticipation and understanding, it can increase the relationship of others and the different types of people you surround yourself with.
For people to reach this idea of being other-oriented and to reach the satisfaction of it, empathy is something that needs to be practiced and understood. “Empathy means to get into one’s inner world and be there in a deeper level. This can be accomplished by being very sensitive to one’s changing emotions, be it fear, anger or confusion moment by moment” (Yildiz 1471). Tapping into someone’s emotions can be scary and challenging. Since they experience and handle things differently, it may be hard to step into their mindset. By engaging and immersing yourself in others emotions you are then creating another emotional experience for yourself. By creating these emotional experiences, you are allowing yourself to reflect back on it in the future. In order to reach their sense of emotion you first need to understand why they are feeling this sort of way in the first place. Asking and listening is extremely important when you are trying to connect to someone on a more personal and emotional level. For example, when one is in a romantic relationship with someone, empathy needs to be reached and understood in order for that relationship to grow and be healthy. This doesn’t mean that people have to forget their own emotions and just solely focus on their partner, a sort of medium must be met. In fact, using your past emotional experiences and applying it to someone else’s can be quite beneficial. “While the cognitive component is about understanding other person’s thoughts by getting into his/her role, the emotional component is about understanding his/ her emotions as much as they are felt by the other person” (Yildiz 1471).
Your own emotions need to be in the back of your mind while still focusing on and considering the feelings of the ones around you. Emotions can be hard to sense and feel, or maybe one person is just more empathetic than the other, but once emotions are detected and brought up, people begin to react and feel the emotions. Maintaining the bond you have with your partner can be a challenge when emotions are not being understood, that’s why being other-oriented is key in a relationship in order to keep balance. It is important to apply this sort of skill in all relationships whether they be serious or not. Understanding the emotions of your partner, family member, or even co-worker strengthens the bond in not only the relationship overall, but especially in your communication with each other. Being empathetic and mastering this skill creates a sense of value in the other person as well as building emotional understanding in your own self. Being empathetic towards someone doesn’t mean being able to just feel what they are experiencing, it also means to showcase this through nonverbal communication. “Providing empathic, supportive facial expressions and vocal cues, hugs, and positive touch helps to reduce stress and enhance a person’s overall well-being (Beebe 183). Creating small indications towards your communicator shows you are listening with emotion as well as responding to their emotion. Even something as little as changing your tone of voice can help calm or change the feelings in a situation. If you are aware that the person you are talking to is someone who is quite sensitive, when talking to them use a softer tone of voice instead of an aggressive or demanding one. Enhancing the well-being of others and showing them that they are being valued by you is key to being other-oriented. Becoming empathetic is just one way of many on how to adapt to others needs and thoughts.
The idea of keeping your own integrity that was previously stated above relates to adapting to others. “Adapting is to adjust one’s behavior in accord with what someone else does. We can adapt based on the individual, the relationship, or the situation” (Beebe 109). Now, when people begin to adapt to others it is important to listen and understand what they are saying and what their behavior is like, but people have to still keep their own beliefs in mind. People don’t have to suddenly change their motives, beliefs or desires when adapting, just be respectful of others opinions and thoughts and stay true to yours. This can be a confusing skill to maintain due to falling too far to one side by changing everything you believe, to not changing or adjusting at all. There is a difference between not adapting and not knowing. “A lack of specific knowledge about a new acquaintance means that being other-oriented involves drawing on your own thoughts, feelings, and perspective to understand the other person” (Beebe 320). Don’t adapt to something you have no knowledge or information on.
This is something that commonly happens, especially when you are trying to impress someone. Meeting someone you may like for the first time can be intimidating, and when you start to like everything that they like just to impress them, that leads to things being dishonest and ends up hurting your communication within your relationship. Keep your own integrity while still asking questions and getting to know them. Ask the other person and fully understand what they are saying in order to readjust some things to their liking. “Failure to understand another person’s expectations can be a source of conflict and can undermine relational development” (Beebe 270). Conflict between you and others can arise when you either don’t understand or when you choose too not understand what you are given information wise from that person. Adapting to others in this way can be quite complicated and very challenging. For example, when people are in a new romantic relationship, the idea and intentions of adapting begin to arise. The more you spend time and communicate with this person the more you are going to learn about him or her. When people begin to focus on what the other is saying, they begin to pick up on specific things. Some of those specific things could be their values, culture, experiences, and beliefs. Adapting to others values can be rather difficult especially if there are some strong differences between the two communicating. “Commonsense, naive, or lay beliefs about an argument and its role in interpersonal relationships are predictive of the ways in which individuals approach, interpret, and behave during disagreements” (Ricco 156). When these disagreements arise, it is important to be openminded and non-opinionated in order to fully adapt to their standards. Your behavior is also important, it is probably best not to overreact, or not react at all. It is necessary to anticipate what is going to happen if that is possible in the situation. Being able to adapt and respond quickly shows a sense of understanding and a sense of listening. As far as adjusting to someone’s culture and beliefs, which is a very important topic in relationships especially in today’s society, flexibility and an open mind are very much needed as well as an understanding of intercultural competence. “To be interculturally competent is more than merely being aware of what is appropriate or simply being sensitive to cultural differences. It is to behave in appropriate ways towards others” (Beebe 101).
It is necessary that if others set some standards that they feel strongly about and would like for you to follow, then it is important that you adapt to those things. To be aware of one’s culture and adapting to what they believe and what they have been exposed to will lead to a stronger relationship as well as having some new common interests. Even if you disagree or conflict begins to arise, showing that you are willing to accept those differences creates a healthy space and environment. By being openminded with others, similarities in topics can be created. Being other oriented applies to not only those who we have similarities with but also ones with differences. “We build bridges with others who are different than us when we can identify something we may have in common” (Beebe 100). We meet different people, then adapt to them in order to relate to them. We tend to “build bridges” and meet in the middle in order to adapt to one another. When these common interests are created the idea of becoming comfortable and relatable in a relationship begins to show. Not only does this allow the other person to feel valued but the one adapting is proving that they are willing to do these kinds of things in order to maintain the relationship and or conversation.
When we feel empathy and adapt to others needs, it makes it easier to relate to them, but in some cases, it is not always that easy. What makes relating to others a little easier is to be accepting and to constantly ask questions. You will not know if you can relate to others if you do not know anything about them, hence, that’s why asking questions is necessary. “Asking questions and responding to questions are vital to learning and relating with others” (Petress). When you directly ask someone something, it opens up the conversation and shows the other person that you are willing to know and understand them. When you directly ask someone, who you are talking to a question, you typically get a direct answer back rather quickly. This allows the understanding of one another to happen more swiftly and keeps the conversation moving. When you open up the conversation there is more of a chance of you finding something that you are able to relate to. The more and more you both ask and share about yourself, the more information you are given, therefore the more you are exposed to relating to them.
When you begin to relate to other people you build a connection with them. You can relate to people in many different ways, whether it is emotionally, personally, about desires or even as simple as interests. Finding those common things sparks the conversation and keeps the relationship and interaction interesting. Relating to others can happen in very small ways. For example, when in a workplace and working with all sorts of customers, they are typically seen as strangers that you have no personal connection with, but connections can be made. Small talk is created in a workplace when a customer needs specific help, possibly for a specific occasion or reason. You then now know more about this person and can relate to them based on the situation and topic of discussion. When you relate to strangers it clears the air and makes the conversation and experience more comfortable. By responding to what others have to say gives a sense of reassurance that we are actually listening. “Questioning and responding are valuable skills and these skills make a genuine difference in the lives of those having such skills” (Petress). When we ask and respond we are sharing our sense of understanding with others. Small acts of relating to others open up experiences and knowledge. Some information we hear though, might not necessarily be something we want to hear. When people begin to learn more about another person, this could potentially lead to conflict. Some things might be said that you don’t quite agree with, which is fine, but respecting that is key. Also, when you begin to understand more about people you know what can make them happy or even set them off. “Being other-oriented might cause you to refrain from ending a relationship because you know the pain it will cause on your partner” (Beebe 292). This can be a tricky situation to fall into if you don’t know how to handle it well or respond to your partner. This is where the practice of empathy and adapting experiences can come in handy. When analyzing your partner and thinking back on your experiences you may find a solution to conflicts when they arise. It all about going back to your previous experiences and remembering what you have absorbed from it.
Creating and gaining new experiences surrounds the three ideas of empathy, adapting and relating to others when becoming other-oriented. By reacting and accepting the thoughts and ideas of others, you are gaining a new and personal experience that the both of you now share. By holding on to any previous experience, you can then pass that on to others and reflect on it in other parts of your life and new relationships that will occur. When we begin to try and understand people, “we are typically engaged in second-person conversational situations with others whom we share a world with. In such social interaction, we mostly play an active part ourselves instead of talking” (Newen 211). This idea of playing an active part is extremely important in all aspects of understanding someone. Not only do you show they are valued through words, but you can show these things by not even talking. You can show them through non-verbal communication like body language, eye contact, and facial expressions. We are also opening up a new little world with others when we try to understand them. People begin to play a role in the lives of others when we decide to become other-oriented. We create different sides of ourselves that reflect on specific people that we share things with. Another important active part we play in relationships is listening. When we begin to actually listen to others and not just hear them, we start to fully understand them in what they are trying to express or get across to us.
Listening to and understanding others are some of the many skills that need to be mastered in order to become other-oriented. When we lose those practices in our daily lives, it becomes easy to forget that others have needs and different views on things that we do. People begin to get distracted by unimportant things that take up too much of our time. Things like social media can get in our way of becoming other-oriented and focusing on people. We tend to become opinionated and lose our sense of being open-minded when our attention is somewhere else. These things can be recovered if we empathize, adapt, and relate to others in a more understanding way. We can do this by simply anticipating and creating a new perspective. Tapping into emotions, experiences and adapting to all the information we are given, we can then show the values of others. Understanding the many different people that we encounter during the course of our lives is challenging, but overall rewarding.
Developing skills that are uniquely human – such as active listening, caring and nurturing – are key for the world of the future. These attributes cannot be outsourced or automated and are still going to be important in whatever job you have. Empathy is essential for enhancing our interpersonal relationships, overall life satisfaction and improving our ability to respond well to challenges. Without actively cultivating empathy we will never have strong listening skills or the ability to truly respect others and value your relationships. Everything we do now is visible to more people, mostly because of the amount people interact online, including how we communicate and relate to others.
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