How to Cultivate Empathy In 2023
Simply through awareness of the power of empathy and making a shift in your mindset, you’ll begin to notice yourself becoming more empathic. If you are someone with the slightest interest in personal growth, developing empathy is lesson 101 in your curriculum.
In order to expand as a person, you must be able to embrace the wide variety of life experiences — whether you experience them yourself or put yourself in the shoes of someone else experiencing them. We can’t grow if we stay isolated in the small boxes of our own lives.
Here are some ways you can begin to develop more empathy:
- When you are with another person, try to focus your attention outwards to understand their behaviors, moods, or expressions. Be fully present and listen intently when they speak rather than being stuck inside your own head or preparing your response.
- Don’t be too quick to offer solutions or minimize the situation or their pain. Show with your eye contact, expressions and body language that you “get” what is going on with them.
- Reflect back to the other person what you are hearing them say. Allow them to feel deeply heard. This can’t be a rote repetition of their words, but a sincere reflection of the feelings behind the words that were spoken.
- Physically mirror the other person in their body language if you can do it without it looking weird. We do this unconsciously with people we like, so try to do it intentionally to show connection.
- Actively imagine that you are this person and that their challenge or pain is yours. Allow yourself to feel the feelings of sadness, anger, regret, fear, pain, shame, or guilt that they are feeling. It is only through feeling what others feel that we can truly empathize with them.
- Extend yourself to talk more with people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, faiths, or political persuasions. Spend time outside of your “tribe” so you can better understand where others are coming from and why they are the people they are.
- Challenge your assumptions about others and step back from your personal prejudices. It’s hard to be empathetic when you rely on stereotypes that you can’t relate to. Step out of your comfort zone and look for opportunities to challenge your entrenched beliefs and opinions.
Having sympathy for another is an act of kindness and compassion. Showing empathy for another is an act of service.
With empathy, you extend yourself to meet another where they are and stop for a while to sit with them in their suffering.
Both are necessary for your personal evolution, but empathy has the power to transform and elevate us while making the world a better place.