>Linguistic Empathy ~ An Empathic Approach to Words

>What is linguistic empathy, you must be wondering right? First you must understand what the term linguistics means. The definition is ‘the study of the nature, structure, and variation of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, and pragmatics.’ Simply put, it is the study of language, both written and spoken. It is the study of words and how they are used.

Now that we have a general idea of what linguistics are, what about empathy? (as if you all don’t already know the definition of empathy) It is defined as ‘identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.’ Put simply, you feel what they feel.

What do the two of these words, linguistics and empathy, have to do with each other? What is linguistic empathy exactly?

Empaths, by their very nature are innate observers. We watch. We listen. We feel. But more importantly, we tend to see and feel more than others do. When we listen to someone speak, we judge their feelings, at one level, by their tone, their pitch, and the words they use. We look at body language, how tense are the muscles around the mouth and in the face as they speak, how are their hands held, do they seem to take a defensive posture. Things like this allow us a greater range of understanding, even if we don’t consciously realize we are doing it.

Did you catch it? Did you see what we do when we listen? We become a linguist. Our ears perceive quite a bit of information at this level. And all of this plays a part in our empathic reaction. You might wish to think that empathy is some kind of magic trick, but there is a real process to it, much more than just your intuitive capabilities. And its important for each of us to understand how we do what we do best as Empaths.

How does this work with the written word? Its a little bit more difficult, especially online, its true. But its viable. You learn to stop relying on your sight and listening abilities, your physical senses, as much, and you begin to use your cognitive ones instead. Because in writing there is no body language or tone and pitch of a voice. So your imagination, your visualization abilities as it were, take over.

This is where your empathic abilities get tested. You begin to use your sensing, your ability to literally change perspective and walk a mile in another’s shoes, to determine how that person is feeling. You become much more reliant on your own experiences to help filter these feelings and understand them, so as to better understand the person you are talking to. But on top of all of this, you also have their words to rely on. So we come back full circle, once more, to linguistics.

In understanding the meaning of a word, in all of its many contexts, where it is placed, and how it is used, you can begin to deduce the person’s intent in using it. Sentence structure is just as important here as would be the tone or pitch of a person’s voice as they spoke to you.

A good example would be the difference in two words that mean exactly the same thing. ‘My skin was crawling’, makes an impact, its true. But ‘my flesh felt like it was crawling with bugs’, makes an even bigger impact. And for an Empath it makes a deeper visual impact, because you will see what they say in your head. And you will relate to it more deeply, because you will recall any bad event having to do with a bug and you, which made you feel that way.

This ability can be enhanced through the watching of emotional dramas on TV, listening to emotional music, or reading books full of emotion whether its a cheesy romance novel or a horror book filled with suffering. Ever wonder why you are drawn to such things? It enhances your abilities. Its like free emotional experience without the weight of another’s expectations being placed up on you. In other words, its another learning experience, though a vicarious one at best. It can later be used as a point of reference when you are reaching out to others. And when you replay that one scene over and over again on your favorite heart wrenching movie, you are learning, observing, and growing ~ enhancing your own ability of empathy.

But I digress, words are filled with emotion on many levels. Ever heard the term ‘opening an email can be like a bomb for an Empath’? If its filled with sadness, you will literally feel the energy pouring from it like a large anvil falling on your head. It will pull you, call you, and demand from you a response. And you, as an Empath, will most probably be compelled to give into that urge.

I know this is a confusing topic for most to understand. But its quite simple really. Enhancing your ability for linguistic empathy is basically in all the things you already do. This discussion was merely to make you more aware and cognizant of what you do already. Hope it helps, even if just a little bit.


That ability of dissecting things to the core allows you to see beneath the surface of words alone. It is your internal means of seeking insight which can be used later in forming opinions and developing your own abilities.

Ours is a conglomeration of gifts and abilities. This is what sets the gift of empathy apart from other psychic abilities. We have the ability to literally feel what they feel, its true. And this is an intuitive gift in and of itself. But we can enhance this experience with our natural gift of observation, noting the little details that others fail to see, which include things like linguistics.

Do you know the show Psych? Its kind of like that, in a way. He’s not psychic/empathic, its true, but he has an innate ability to observe details which others can not see. He can follow a thread, linking all the minute details together into a bigger picture. This is one of our gifts. Just as we are compelled to listen, we are also compelled to see and recognize on many levels. This is how we become people pleasers. We see someone getting agitated, and we respond to calm them. But its in the little things that we notice that allow us to respond so quickly. Its the same with the written word. ^_^

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on March 24, 2009.

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