“Pay attention to, acknowledge, and accept your emotions.”
— Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Program
How well do you understand the emotions of the people around you?
Empathy is an often overlooked emotional skill that we can use to connect more deeply with those around us.
But what does it mean to truly empathize with another person? How can we improve our empathy skills?
This article will help shed light on the act of empathy and offers 5 ways to improve your empathy.
Empathy Training – The Way To Hone Soft Skills
You probably know a person who is intelligent and in possession of great professional skills. Yet this person doesn’t seem to get along with others.
Some believe the ability to connect with others is a skill you’re born with or without. But this isn’t the case.
With a strong will and some self-discipline, you can learn to start empathizing with others.
But why is empathy important? And how can we learn to become more empathetic?
5 Ways to become more empathetic
Empathy, like many other cognitive processes, is a skill. And skills can be learned and improved upon.
Here are 5 ways you can begin to improve your empathy:
1. Put yourself in the shoes of others
Disregard your own feelings, opinions, and viewpoints for a moment and look at the world through the eyes of another. At this point, you are likely to realize that they are not unreasonable, stubborn, or unkind. Their reaction is usually just a reflection of a particular emotional situation.
Active listening is the key to understanding the message a person is trying to relay. And it doesn’t just involve hearing the words coming out of another person’s mouth.
Listen beyond their words to their posture, tone of voice, and body language. Show that you’re engaged by nodding, holding eye contact, and waiting until they’re entirely finished speaking before you respond.
Don’t hesitate to ask others about their feelings, thoughts, and desires. This is one of the easiest and most direct ways to develop empathy. It will help you get a better understanding of their aspirations and help you adjust your approach accordingly.
Acknowledgment is about respect and acceptance. Acknowledge the point of view and position of the person you’re interacting with.
5. Question your attitude
Do you need to get your way no matter what?
If so, you need to adjust your attitude and work to be more open-minded. Empathy is about nurturing relationships, not winning.
What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
Sympathy and empathy are the main pillars of emotional intelligence. They often work in unison to help you develop meaningful relationships with others.
However, there is a fundamental difference between these two notions.
A basic acknowledgment of someone’s feelings and the situation they’re in is sympathy. At the most basic level, it is the act of feeling sorry for someone.
Empathy, on the other hand, goes much deeper than that. A genuine empathetic response might trigger a series of emotions that correspond with other people’s hardships. And it would be wrong to think that empathy works only for negative feelings. It can spark euphoria, exhilaration, and delight as well.
In addition, empathy can prompt people to action, be it to help those who suffer or to share the joy of an exhilarating moment.
What does it mean to empathize with someone?
In the most general sense, to empathize is to have the ability to imagine and feel the emotions of others.
According to researchers, people express two kinds of empathy – affective and cognitive.
Affective empathy is the ability to mirror other people’s feelings, such as anxiety, fear, and happiness.
Cognitive empathy, which is also known as perspective taking, means being able to recognize and grasp others’ emotions.
Affective and cognitive empathy both have deep roots in the human brain. And there are other mammals that display empathy, too – primates, dogs, dolphins, and even rats, for example.
Justin Bariso, author and communication specialist, differentiates compassionate empathy as a third kind of empathy. This type of empathetic concern goes a step further than understanding and mirroring the feelings of other people. It moves people to act and provide help in whichever way they can.
Affective, cognitive, and compassionate empathy work together to create a complete empathetic response. You recognize the feelings of others which triggers a strong emotional response. As a result, you feel the need to do something.
However, a person may not feel all three levels of empathy equally. For example, many people can sympathize with but not necessarily feel the pain of others. And even among those who do, it may not be enough to spur them to action.
How can you empathize with others?
To empathize with others, you should adopt a few practices that make you more attuned to other people’s feelings. This is a form of empathy training.
The journey begins with understanding, and this goes beyond a passive tap on the shoulder or a simple “I feel sorry for this person.”
Quite on the contrary, it involves an active interest in the things that might be plaguing others. You need to learn how to pick up emotional clues, even when the other person is not saying anything.
You can proceed to help others once you have a full grasp of their feelings. For example, great leaders deliver constructive feedback. And they do it with great respect and care for the feelings of their subordinates.
In addition, those who embrace diversity find it easier to develop empathy. They recognize, accept, and cherish individual differences without expressing any bias.
Political awareness, which concerns specific power relationships and emotional undertones, is also important for developing empathy. This kind of skill is not manipulative by any means. It involves helping others navigate relationships within a group, be it family or business.
What are some examples of empathy?
The best way to truly understand empathy is by taking a look at some empathy examples.
Imagine someone dear to you recently suffered a big loss, like the death of an immediate family member. The empathetic response starts with a complete understanding of the situation.
You want to know if your friend was really close to the person and if his or her life is going to change forever. After understanding comes sharing. You make a connection with the feelings of your friend and feel the same emotional pain.
In the end, the empathetic concern pushes you to help the friend. You might want to take over the household chores, make the necessary arrangements, or anything else they might need.
And empathy doesn’t work for only the people who are close to your heart. It’s possible to empathize with complete strangers.
There are numerous examples of people who even risked their lives to help those in need. In fact, empathy is the feeling that drives people to great acts of courage and makes them truly humane.
The final word
Humans are born with the capacity to feel empathy. Nevertheless, there are those who need a little help to connect with the feelings of others. In essence, empathy requires you to forget about pride and selfishness.
You need to take a step back, open your eyes and ears to the feelings of others, and make a conscious effort to be in tune with who they are and how they feel.
Do you truly empathize with those around you? Tell us more about your feelings in the comments below.