Would you ever wish that a certain person in your life would make the effort to really understand where you came from? This ability – to be empathetic – comes more easily to some people than to others. Empathy helps people get along with others, from loved ones to strangers. So it’s worth considering your own skill for empathy, which you can hone just like any other skill.
“While genetic propensity or our upbringing makes some people naturally empathetic, empathy can be cultivated at any point in our lives,” says Dr. Ronald Siegal, PsyD, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Empathy helps us understand others, so we feel more connected and able to help each other through difficult times, he adds.
What is empathy?
Empathy is a key aspect of emotional intelligence, which also includes the ability to identify and regulate one’s own emotions, and to use those abilities to communicate more effectively.
Psychologist Carl Rogers has described empathy as “seeing the world through another’s eyes, not seeing your world reflected in their eyes.” To be truly empathetic and understand another person’s perspective, feelings, and motivations, you need to be curious about that person.
“Empathy involves paying attention to other people’s words and body language, noticing the feelings that arise in us when we interact with them, and asking them questions about their feelings. Doing this regularly improves our ability to accurately sense the emotional experience of others, ”says Dr. Siegel.
Research suggests that empathy training can improve this skill. It can be part of formal counseling or programs that teach through experiences (such as games and role plays), lectures, demonstrations, and skill practice. A to study who pooled the results of 18 different studies on empathy training found the techniques to be effective.
Try these three ways to practice empathy
You can practice these three steps yourself to cultivate greater empathy:
Recognize your biases. We all have prejudices or prejudices against individuals or groups, whether we are aware of it or not. So-called conscious prejudices refer to prejudices that people recognize. An example would be feeling threatened by another group and expressing opposition to the beliefs or actions of that group. But implicit or unconscious biases are more subtle, which makes it difficult to recognize. Common examples of these biases relate to differences in sex, race, class, age, weight and culture. While it can be disconcerting and arouse feelings of shame to see our implicit biases revealed, the more clearly we see them, the less they control our thoughts, feelings, and actions. One way to explore your implicit biases is to this is.
Ask questions sensitively. Even though biases can frequently arise in personal interactions, these perceptions are certainly not the only reason people don’t understand each other. You may misunderstand someone whose identity and background are very similar to yours. Suppose you don’t know how the other person is feeling because you probably don’t know. Asking questions is the answer. Try something like, “I think my reactions may be different from yours. What is your experience? How do you see it? ”Expressing a willingness to hear other people’s point of view will help that person feel respected.
Listen actively. Once you’ve asked a question, make sure you really listen to what the other person has to say. These three techniques can help:
- Make eye contact to improve your focus and connection with the other person.
- Don’t interrupt – let the other person finish speaking before answering.
- If the person is expressing negative emotions about a situation, avoid suggesting possible solutions unless they are specifically asking for your opinion.