Have you ever wished that a certain person in your life would make an effort to understand where you really came from? This ability – empathy – comes more easily to some people than to others. Compassion helps people get along with others, from loved ones to strangers. So, it’s worth considering your ability to empathize, which you can hone just like any other skill.
“While a genetic predisposition or our upbringing makes some people naturally sympathetic, empathy can be cultivated at any point in our lives,” says Dr. Ronald Seagal, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. He adds that empathy helps us understand others, so we feel more connected and able to help each other in difficult times.
What is empathy?
Empathy is one of the key aspects of emotional intelligence, which also includes the ability to define and regulate one’s feelings, and to use these abilities to communicate more effectively.
Psychologist Carl Rogers described empathy as “seeing the world through the eyes of another, and not seeing your world reflected in their eyes.” To be truly empathetic and understand another person’s perspective, feelings, and motivations, you need to be curious about that person.
Empathy requires paying attention to other people’s words and body language, noticing the emotions that arise within us when we interact with them, and asking them about their feelings. “Doing this regularly improves our ability to subtle sense of the emotional experience of others,” says Dr. Siegel.
Research suggests that training in empathy can improve this skill. It can be part of mentorship or formal programs taught by experiences (such as games and role-playing), lectures, demos, and practice skills. a a study That combined results from 18 diverse studies of empathy training and found the techniques to be effective.
Try these three ways to practice compassion
You can practice these three actions on your own to develop greater empathy:
Acknowledge your biases. We all have biases or prejudices towards individuals or groups, whether we are aware of them or not. This so-called conscious bias refers to the biases that people recognize. An example of this is feeling threatened by another group and expressing opposition to the beliefs or actions of that group. But implicit or unconscious bias is more subtle, which makes it difficult to recognize. Common examples of these biases relate to differences in gender, race, class, age, weight, and culture. While revealing our implicit biases can be upsetting and stirred feelings of shame, the more clearly we see them, the less control they have over our thoughts, feelings and actions. One way to explore your implicit biases is through This test.
Ask questions sensitively. Although prejudices may appear frequently in interpersonal interactions, these perceptions are certainly not the only reason why people fail to understand each other. You can misunderstand someone whose identity and background are very similar to yours. Suppose you don’t know how the other person is feeling, because you probably don’t know them. Asking questions is the answer. Try something like, “I think my reactions might differ from yours. What is your experience? How do you see that?” Expressing a desire to hear another person’s point of view will help you feel respected.
Listen actively. Once you ask a question, make sure you really listen to what the other person has to say. These three techniques can help:
- Make eye contact to boost your focus and connection with the other person.
- Don’t interrupt – allow the other person to finish their conversation before responding.
- If the person expresses negative feelings about a situation, avoid suggesting possible solutions unless specifically asks for your advice.