How do you become more empathetic? Is it a matter of smiling more? Or is it a matter of listening more? The answer is not quite so simple.
Practicing empathy is the ability of understanding and sharing the feelings of another person. You can develop empathy with time and effort. In fact, there are three different categories of empathy:
Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how people feel and what they are thinking. Cognitive empathy helps us become better communicators. It allows us to relay information to reach the other person.
Emotional empathy is also known as affective empathy. It's the ability to share your feelings effectively with another person. Emotion empathy helps you relay emotional pain with people, and build better connections with others.
Compassionate empathy is the ability to understand people and share their feelings. This type of empathy is what moves us to action and help however we can.
Empathy is a powerful ability because it plays a huge role in emotional intelligence (EQ). It gives you the ability to connect with the people you love and the people you meet. When you can express empathy for people, you acknowledge that person's feelings. You acknowledge that person's life matters to you. It's the quintessential component of your personal growth.
The Importance of Empathy
Why is it important to be an empathetic person? It's important to be empathetic because you are able to stand in the other person's shoes. Early research has shown the importance of empathy in building trust with others. It might be as simple as making eye contact with the other person, or just having curiosity about strangers' days. By being able to understand other people's perspectives, you are able to develop exceptional people skills. When you hear about another person's emotional pain, you are able to acknowledge their pain. You are able to actively listen when someone is telling you about something important. Through incredible empathy, you are able to live a life full of deep interpersonal relationships.
Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy
Sympathy and empathy are similar but different things. There are some critical differences between the two.
Sympathy is the shared feeling of sorrow, pity, or compassion for a person.
For example, when you hear about someone losing a loved one, you might feel sympathy in the form of sadness for them. However, you might not have empathy for them if you cannot put yourself in their shoes.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes. You can able to understand and identify with their feelings.
For example, when someone is lacking empathy, they cannot understand why someone is upset over a situation. They are unable to put themselves in that situation or see from the other person's perspective.
8 Ways to Be More Empathetic
1. Pay Attention to the Welfare of Others
Take notice of the people around you. Is there anyone around you that is hurting or struggling? You can find out by building a relationship with the people in your life. Take interest in their day. People will naturally open up to people that show interest in their lives. If and when people open up to you, you are able to empathize with them over some state of affairs that is adverse to their welfare. In these kinds of moments, you are able to have a shared human experience.
2. Don't Be Judgemental
When someone opens up to you, do not be judgemental about their plight. It's easy to be judge other people's circumstances. Do not judge or challenge this person. Approaching every situation without judgment is the center for building trust. Be kind, and let your body language reflect that you care about them. Think about how you'd like people to respond to you when you are struggling in your life.
3. Put Yourself In Other Peoples' Shoes
The roots of empathy lie in your ability to put yourself in their shoe. Imagine what it would be like if it were you going through those circumstances. If someone told you about bad news that occurred in their life, try and imagine how you'd feel if you heard that news yourself. This helps you understand other people on a deeper level. This is a key ability of emotionally intelligent people.
4. Actively Listen to People
When people are disclosing something important to them, don't just pretend to listen. Really listen. You can do this by changing your body language. Start by pointing your toes towards that person, and turn your body to face that person. Look that person in the eyes. Keep your mouth shut. Don't make this about yourself. Too often have I seen people turn other people's situations into something about themselves. When someone is telling you something, listen to them as you'd like them to listen to you if the shoe were on the other foot.
5. Reflect on What You Hear
When people tell you something personal about themselves, reflect on that situation with kindness. Think about what you can say to be compassionate and uplifting to them. Think about what you can do to brighten their day. Acknowledge the other person's feelings. Build a culture of empathy with every conversation you have.
6. Share Your Experience When Appropriate
If the person is asking for feedback and you happen to have been through relevant experience, you can use your experience to help the person through their struggle. For example, if someone is dealing with problems at work and you've been through it before, you can use your experience to shed light on that person. Only do this if there is a proper place for it. Avoid making their situation about yourself.
7. Put Distance From Emotional Response
This goes hand-in-hand with not being judgemental. When the person brings up a topic that normally heats you up, put some emotional distance away from it. Try and put on a hat of understanding. Try and see where they are coming from. Even though you might not agree with them, you are still able to empathize with where they are coming from.
8. Practice Empathy Constantly
You can only get the empathy effect when you are willing to practice it. Take every opportunity to practice empathy when you can. You will encounter people every day that is in need of empathy. If you are willing to put yourself in their situation, you are going to be able to understand body language, facial expressions, and emotional responses.
It's life-changing when you learn how to be more empathetic. When you practice empathy, you are able to develop deeper and more intimate relationships with people. If you have a hard time seeing things from another perspective, try and put yourself in their shoes. As we develop our empathy, our goal is to be moved into compassionate empathy. Life takes a village. We are all going through some tough things. Be willing to be the helping hand in the darkness. Be kind to everyone you meet. You just don't know what they might be going through.