The Secret to Flourishing: Practicing Empathy

Early December, I stumbled on a company called Flourish Tech and out of curiosity, signed up for a consultation. Flourish is an early-stage startup in the mental health space that is empowering individuals by teaching and training them to effectively manage stress and conflict on a highly personalized level. I’ve been a returning user ever since and wanted to share my experience!

Background

Historically, accessibility and affordability of mental health support is a huge barrier to those who seek it, but Flourish has figured out a scalable solution at a nominal cost (~$20/month). While I see this platform being a potential alternative to therapy for some, it services people just looking for some lightweight support or self-improvement (i.e. better conflict management, stress and anxiety reduction).

How does it work? Flourish has created sturdy frameworks to think through social conflicts and stressful situations — and they’re really effective. Their formulas are based on techniques that professional therapists practice, combined with research findings from Stanford University.

However, just knowing the facts by heart is not enough. To actually use them effectively when a sticky situation arises takes practice. (Fellow musicians know this better than anyone.) Flourish supplies specially trained coaches to lead you through real or hypothetical scenarios in a judgement-free space. The coach then offers feedback on how you can address situations better so that your counterpart will be less defensive and more receptive to a conversation.

Empathy is a key ingredient of meaningful relationships. Everyone is capable of empathy and, like any other ability, it’s one that can be nurtured.

The Mechanics

Quick note: This is my personal experience as someone who has not participated in therapy before.

When I signed up, I received a list of effective strategies to help get the person you have a conflict with into a resolution-oriented state of mind. I didn’t read it in advance, but heavily used it during my first session.

Next, I attended my free one-on-one 30 minute session* with a Flourish coach! In this time, we role-played a real scenario together. She pretended to be my pissed off mother while I pretended to be brave and empathetic, using the strategy guide. These strategies embody a psychological tactic called ‘mirroring’ which allows your counterpart to feel understood and helps you better understand their feelings. There are 6 main strategies, which you can use sequentially.

Hint: Step 1 is always to disarm them by agreeing with them. Ex: “You’re right, I…”

My coach then provided me some feedback on my response. (She told me to disarm right away and to avoid problem solving at this point! Calm the counterpart first.)

Initially, this process was not easy. It can be unnatural and difficult to adjust to a new way of looking at conflict and reflection, but the outcome was really worth it. A lot of conflict and stress stems from false assumptions / perceptions, and pushing myself to dig deeper and question those assumptions helped me resolve my conflict and stress much more quickly. I came out of the sessions impressed that I found new, more positive perspectives, and best of all, I reached them by myself (with the help of introspective questions from the coach).

At the beginning of some sessions with real scenarios, I’d start off at a stress level of 6 or 7, and at the end, they were at least 50% lower!

*this may have changed as they’ve experienced a lot of growth.

Why Empathy?

Having empathy results in better relationships, less conflict, less stress, and more positivity! Life is particularly tough right now.

Before you know it, one slightly negative social interaction has put you in a negative feedback cycle. Someone else says something you interpret negatively, you’re annoyed, and this relationship (and likely other relationships) are impacted. And in tough times like this, there’s little to lift you out of that cycle.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman states, “When we are uncomfortable and unhappy, we lose touch with our intuition”. Being in a bad mood negatively affects “System One”, which is the automatic and default way we think, and involves intuition, creativity and gullibility.

How can we be understanding when we’re stressed or unhappy ourselves?

Self Reflections

It’s only been a month, but I haven’t had any conflicts with family or friends since I started, and therefore have been less stressed overall. Generally, I found that I have been more considerate about others’ feelings and able to better navigate situations before they worsened. The secret to flourishing is practicing empathy!

Another reason practicing these scenarios has lowered my stress levels is that instead of going in circles and stressing out about something for days, I can just run through the new frameworks I’ve learned and move forward! Life is too short.

This is not an invitation, but I’m secretly looking forward to my next conflict to put my new skills to the test.

🤔

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