Being emphatic is a difficult skill to master. It takes years of practice, but it can be done! This article will go over some easy ways you can show empathy in your everyday life to be more emphatic with others.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and respond to emotions, usually those of another person. It’s the core of everything that makes us human, but it doesn’t come easily.
It’s a learned skill that we develop over time and with practice.
If anything, this makes our current situation as a society all the more tragic. In my opinion, empathy can’t be mandated from above or rushed through education programs. It must be nurtured from the ground up.
Parents have to work at being empathetic toward their kids, rather than demanding it from them or punishing them for not having it.
Teachers have to reach out first to students who don’t seem capable of reaching back and then encourage those students to rejoin a community they fear, thanks to bullying by other children on the playground or in the classroom. We all have to do our best to look outside ourselves and see how we can help others who may be struggling.
How Do We Develop Empathy For Others?
Researchers have found that by imagining ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can develop more empathy. This is because it will help to put our situations in perspective.
This study examined how we become more empathetic when we imagine ourselves as another person because it helps us put our situation in perspective. To test this, researchers conducted two experiments with over 80 participants. The first experiment was based on a classic psychological study that tested how children developed their theory of mind by imagining themselves in different situations (Siegel 2005).
This original research showed that children could consider what other people are thinking at around four years old. It also found that if the child believed they were being watched while doing something, they would act differently than when they felt nobody was watching them. Therefore, the experimenters hypothesized that empathy would increase if an adult used imaging techniques to assume someone else’s perspective.
How To Show Empathy?
Empathy is a primary human emotion characterized by understanding others’ actions, thoughts, feelings, etc. Empathy can be demonstrated in several ways, including:
- Listening attentively to someone’s story
- Putting oneself in the other person’s shoes
- Attempting to think about what it would be like if you were in their situation
Empathy has been studied for decades, and research indicates that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show less empathy than those without ASD. However, a new study by Dr. Wulf Rössler and colleagues from the University of Zurich suggests this lack of empathy may be caused by executive function difficulties in individuals on the spectrum rather than an inherent deficit in the empathic response itself.
Executive functions enable us to maintain our attention and focus and orchestrate behaviors and thoughts across time more efficiently. Therefore, deficits in executive function can lead to interruptions or breakdowns in cognitive processes such as planning, memory, executing goal-directed behavior, inhibiting responses, self-monitoring mental states, and employing feedback to guide future behavior.
How to Be More Emphatic?
The first way to show empathy is by being present. This means focusing on the person in front of you and giving them your full attention, rather than waiting for a moment when you can do something else or look at your phone.
If someone is speaking with their problem, make sure that they feel heard before moving forward. Just letting somebody talk about themselves without interruptions makes a world of difference in how they view you as a listener! Being present also includes listening actively – nodding along while thinking through what people are saying instead of just half paying attention allows the speaker to trust that whatever it is they’re sharing will be valued and thought about afterward.
Another aspect of showing empathy via presence would be asking follow-up questions after talking so that both people feel like they’ve been heard. If the other person is done talking, wait a few seconds before speaking yourself so that you don’t interrupt them and come off as dismissive of their feelings or ideas.
The following way to show empathy would be by being non-judgmental. This means not telling people how they should have handled a situation differently or, even worse – judging their actions from the get-go! Most often, when somebody shares something with you, it’s because they’re looking for an outside perspective on what happened, especially if nobody else was there at the time to witness what occurred firsthand. In this case, it can help someone tremendously to hear that whatever decision they made wasn’t wrong but somewhat different than your intuition may have been.
Additionally, if somebody shares a negative experience with you that they’re embarrassed or ashamed of, it’s never helpful to judge them for making a mistake! It is healthier and more sincere to let the person know that everybody has their own set of values and morals, which can often be at odds when trying to make decisions in life. Instead of feeling like an idiot who messed up, they will feel respected as human beings with free thought processes just like everyone else on this planet – all different but equally unique nonetheless.
Finally, empathy comes from active listening skills such as having back-and-forth conversations where both people share ideas while offering support no matter the situation. If feelings become hurt because someone feels disrespected or dismissed, take the time to find out how you can be helpful.
This means being open-minded about what somebody is saying and trying your best not to get defensive when they’re sharing their feelings with you. Even if it’s uncomfortable for a few minutes, finding out why someone feels upset in discussion will show them that you are actively listening, which helps build trust in future conversations where they may seek advice from you again!
How To Practice Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to relate to and understand other people’s feelings and emotions.
One way to practice empathy is by imagining how you would feel in a situation where someone has different beliefs than you. For example, if I’m arguing with someone about abortion, I try to imagine how it would feel to think about what they believe in this person’s shoes.
This can also be done with other subjects like politics or religion. Another way of practicing empathy is by actively trying to understand what another person is going through; for example, we might ask them, “How was that for you?” and see how they want us to help them.
Finally, there are also many activities that we could do like playing games with each other or working on a project together. This can help us understand what it is like to work in the other person’s shoes, share their experience and connect with them.
Empathy is one of those qualities that people tend to struggle with, especially when emotions run high. Still, over time it gets easier as long as we keep practicing these skills regularly! At first, this all might seem daunting, but before you know it, empathy becomes second nature in most personal and professional interactions.
Because empathy is one of the most important human capacities that anyone can practice, I hope you consider using some of these activities with your loved ones! Let me know what you think!