“Walk a mile in his moccasins.” When you can stand in someone else’s shoes, you can see life from his perspective; you can understand where he’s coming from; you can begin to know how he feels. When you can do that, you are empathetic—better able to connect with that person and have a healthy relationship. It requires a generosity of spirit that is conducive to having an open mind and being less apt to judge.
1) Better Relationships. Most of us tend to seek out friends and acquaintances among people like ourselves. That’s who we’re most comfortable with. And those are the people who require the least empathy because they are already like ourselves. But even those close to us have different life experiences that require our understanding.
2) Better Emotional Intelligence. Empathy helps us be aware of our own emotions and therefore helps us manage them. It also helps us be aware of the emotions of those around us and therefore we can better navigate social situations.
3) Better Leadership. When we understand those around us and we can read their emotional thoughts and needs, we can communicate with them better. We can work with them more effectively as co-workers and as leaders.
4) Better All-Around. Empathy allows us to understand ourselves and others and strengthen the bonds with our family and friends. That brings a sense of well-being and joy in life.
Luckily, empathy is a quality you can learn.
Practice makes perfect. The idea is to make an effort to imagine how another person is feeling and why they’re feeling that way without judging them. Then go beyond the cognitive to the emotional—sharing your feelings, too. And finally, show compassion by trying to mitigate another’s pain.
In general, you can increase your power to empathize by talking to people outside your circle of friends. Get to know others with different backgrounds and listen to them without judgement. Focus on their interests and needs. Try not to assume anything and be open to others’ points of view.
Finally, meditate. Studies show that meditation activates an area in the brain that is associated with compassion. Meditation also increases your own self-awareness and calms you, so you are more able to empathize with others.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact