Have you ever encountered someone who just brushed off your feelings as not important? How did you feel? Did you feel happy about it? You felt small, right? That person was not empathetic toward you. Empathy is understanding other people and being able to relate with them to soothe them. That is why we will be discussing 7 ways to develop empathy.
Empathy doesn’t come naturally, nobody is born empathetic. The environment is one of the social factors that condition us to be empathetic. Regardless of that, empathy can be learned and practiced by practicing effective listening, virtually putting yourself in other people’s shoes, understanding them, and helping them solve their problems if you can.
Empathy is more than just trying to help others, it is more about being sensitive to other people’s plight and putting others before yourself. Empathy should never be done pretentiously. Everyone deserves sincere concern and should not be denied that. Empathy can be inculcated by practicing the 7 ways to develop empathy.
7 Ways To Develop Empathy
1. Be Open-minded
One of the 7 ways to develop empathy is to be open-minded. Being open-minded helps you empathize with anyone regardless of race, tribe, color, religion, etc. Many people are afraid to show empathy to those outside their class. These kinds of people are not empathetic, they can showcase sympathy but not empathy.
Everyone in different places has different languages, cultures, and traditions but this diversity does not stop a doctor from treating them all. The doctor will give them all his attention because, to him/her they are all patients, not black or white, not Christian or Muslim.
The relationship they have between them is just the doctor-patient relationship and nothing more. The same goes for bankers, the bankers in the banks help everyone, no matter their height or status to open accounts the same way. Upon withdrawal of funds from the accounts, the procedures remain the same for everyone.
Although there is diversity on earth, every human is still human. This means every human being appreciates empathy shown to them, even though they show their appreciation in different ways. There are different ways to show appreciation
2. Being Compassionate
Compassion is a strong awareness of other people’s suffering and the desire to relieve them of it. Being compassionate comes first and foremost by understanding the pain of others. You cannot help what you don’t understand. You have to first understand the person’s pain by seeing it from their perspective.
Compassion is a two-in-one kind of emotion. On one hand, it helps you relate to other people’s pains, and on the other hand, it provokes a desire within you to take those pains away.
Compassion can be evoked by your previous exposure to what the other person is currently going through. This is the easiest and fastest route because it doesn’t take rocket science to understand something you have experienced yourself. The fact alone that you have seen or experienced such a thing will open you up to easily feeling compassion towards that person. Experience acts as a lens that guides your perception.
3. Be Available Emotionally
Emotional availability is one of the 7 ways to develop empathy. Being compassionate alone is not enough, this is because you can be compassionate from a distance. The balance is created when you are right there, not just physically but emotionally.
Take, for instance, the case of a married couple who only talks to each other when there are bills to pay or sexual needs to be met. They are both living together but are not together. The wife might be quiet about her emotional needs because she feels her husband does not care and the husband might be quiet about the issues he faces in his workplace because he feels his wife does not care.
Being emotionally available means saying to a woman grieving over the loss of her child that you are going to grieve with her. You can be emotionally available by holding her hands and letting her lean on you for support while she cries her heart out. This way, you achieve the aim of the 7 ways to develop empathy.
4. Practice Effective Listening
Someone who is going through emotional distress does not need you to tell them to suck up their feelings and forget about them. Before rendering any kind of help, you must first listen to them. Never assume you know what the next person is feeling without hearing them out.
Effective listening helps you to, first of all, be connected to that person psychologically. In every sphere of life, there is a need for connection. When there is no connection, you cannot relate to the person and not talk more about being compassionate.
It is often mistaken that women only need knights in shining armor, who will just come and take them away from all their troubles. As fairytale-like as those sounds, it is not true. Most women just need someone to listen to them, not someone who will tell them that their feelings are unnecessary. In as much as the answers to that puzzle are so crystal clear to you, she doesn’t need you to say, ‘You fool, here is the answer”.
This does not mean you cannot offer help but listen attentively first. You can learn how to listen attentively.
5. Always Use Kind Words
Words are so powerful that they can make you alive and confident, while on the other extreme, they can kill your zeal or demoralize you. Words are known for their ability to make or break lives across the globe. The words you speak can soothe someone’s emotional distress and on the other hand, they can aggravate it.
Harsh words said to a patient fighting for her life can result in the death of that patient. Words are tools used to communicate your thoughts and feelings. After listening to someone, words like I’m sorry can go a long way toward comforting the person. This does not negate the fact that you might not be the cause of the person’s pain.
Using kind words has a way of breaking through people’s defenses. Most times, when people expect rebukes from you, they can put up a wall around themselves. With their walls and defenses up, you cannot get through to them because they already see you as an opponent. But when you gently speak kind words, they relax to the point that they can open up to you.
6. Consider Others Before Yourself
Considering others first is one of the 7 ways to develop empathy. Considering others before yourself is never a disadvantage when learning how to develop empathy. It makes you more aware of the well-being of others. This does not mean that you should cast your well-being into the boot of the car. It just means that you should consider others first, then yourself.
In other words, being selfless helps you develop empathy. The world has become a fast-paced global village, so much so that it is hard to keep up with everyone physically. This encourages self-dependency and causes people to only look out for themselves.
Being selfless makes you more responsible, therefore making you more trustworthy. Nobody wants to share their innermost thoughts with someone who only thinks of himself. Being selfless makes people see you as someone they can trust with their deepest truths without fear that you might sabotage them.
7. Render Help When Necessary
Always be ready to help others when the need arises. Helping others is one of the 7 ways to develop empathy. Be of help, no matter how little it might be. After being compassionate, emotionally available and all the other points mentioned above, you still need to lend a helping hand to the person you are empathizing with.
Help can be rendered by just spending time with the person, solving their financial needs if you have the means, washing dishes, and many other things. For instance, a student in exam season might not be dedicated to feeding well. You can help by providing food if it is available.
The truth about helping others is that it helps you establish unforgettable bonds that foster empathy. Another good thing that helping others does is that it helps you develop a giving nature. It is popularly known that givers never lack, this is true because a helper never lacks help.
Helping people makes you more sensitive to their welfare and concerns and it also makes you more reliable in their eyes. Reliable people are likable people and because they are likable, it is easy to create connections with them, which in the long run will help you as one of the 7 ways to develop empathy.
To be able to develop empathy through the 7 ways to develop empathy, you have to be determined. You might not get it right on your first approach but consistent practice will eventually yield the much desired results. Developing empathy is not a day’s work; you have to go at it, again and again till it becomes natural. You deserve empathy, and so does the person you pass by on your way every single day. Empathy can be a skill if practiced correctly.