30th June 2020
by HealthyMe Digital

 “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

Expressing empathy means you figuratively put yourself in someone else’s shoes in an attempt to better understand them, their emotions and behaviours.  Having empathy means you try to view the world from other’s perspectives and build awareness of their feelings, needs and concerns.  

You may be walking down a city street and notice a homeless person.  You may not interact with this person, but you begin to imagine what it would be like to live on the street, to be hungry, cold and always searching for shelter.  You may start to feel sad, scared and anxious - this is an example of expressing empathy.  And it is through your capacity to express empathy that you may then be compelled to act in some way that may help others, in this case, you may donate to a charity that supports homeless people. 

Even though you may never truly ‘be in their shoes’, such as being homeless, your empathy allows you to imagine what it would feel like to be in that situation.  Empathy can, therefore, be seen as a way we connect with other people allowing for compassion, understanding and, ultimately, love and respect. Further, practising empathy enables you to suspend judgement of others, move towards acceptance of differences, and build better relationships.

How can we learn to become more empathetic?

Many of us find tuning into others’ thoughts and feelings easy, however, it is an attribute you can continue to develop.

Here are four ways to build empathy:

  1. Know yourself.  Having self-awareness means you have the ability to recognise and understand your emotions and feelings.  And being more self-aware will enable you to recognise emotions in others.
  2. Cultivate curiosity. Become more curious about others, engage in conversation with people you would not usually talk to and try different activities that will lead to new experiences.
  3. We are more alike than different. Discover commonalities with others by suspending your judgements and challenging your prejudices. 
  4. Practise active listening. When communicating with others pay attention to the five parts of communication – what’s said; what’s not said; words used; tone of voice; and body language. By really listening to someone we hear their perspective rather than only hearing what we want to hear.

Becoming more empathetic allows us to genuinely connect with others on a deeper level, leading to better and more fulfilling relationships.

 

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