The ability to see others’ perspective, to understand what the other might be feeling, and giving them the message that actually understand them, can have amazing effects. If we want cooperation, if we want relatedness, then we need to be able to – at least to a certain extent – be in tune with the emotional states and the intentions or goals of other people.
Empathy comes naturally; but we can always build up empathy skills. Here are some tips.
- When listening to someone, be present and listen hard by putting aside your own thoughts and planning. Can you listen without the need for judging or what you will say next? Don’t forget that you don’t have to agree with them.
- Be curious; about strangers and about the world around you. Be interested in others without intimidating them or giving them advice. Have a chat with someone you don’t know and try to understand the world inside that person’s head.
- Remove your masks, be genuine and open yourself up to people. Sharing something personal about yourself in an authentic way is one of the most important ways of learning how to be more empathic.
- Try to be aware of your prejudices by recognising your assumptions about others and which labels you use for certain groups. Focus more on the similarities that you have with others rather than things that divide you.
- Learn about emotions: how to notice them, how to label them, and how they are expressed verbally as well as via body language.
- Be open to receiving feedback about your behaviours. More importantly, do ask for feedback from others: how you react in certain situations, what your biases might be, how you relate to others, how you express your emotions etc.