What is empathy? How do you empathize with others?
Do you know what empathy means?
It is understanding how others feel, sharing the same feelings and showing compassion towards them. In our day and age, we might tend to live in our own bubbles. Most of us are surrounded by individuals who look like us, think like us, have educations like us and spend money like us.
It goes without saying that being empathetic is an important skill in life. Connection and compassion are both vital to a sustainable and humane future. While we’re educating our future generations, let’s start practising empathy in our own lives.
1. Become curious about people you don’t know
“For me, the core of empathy is curiosity,” - Jodi Halpern, a psychiatrist and bioethics Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Questions open a conversation and conversations lead to a meaningful connection.
The key is to go beyond small talk. It can be as simple as inviting a colleague to lunch, or talking to your neighbour beyond the occasional greetings. It can also be as simple as putting your phone away and reducing screen time when you’re out with others. Truly focusing on the conversation so that you can fully listen and notice their facial expressions and gestures - now that’s something we all could learn to implement everyday.
2. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
It’s not just standing in someone else’s shoes, but taking a walk in them. Well, not literally.
It’s so easy to just comment and judge without truly understanding what they are going through.
Are they going through a painful and difficult period in their lives? Are they facing problems that they aren’t telling anyone else?
If someone’s actions bother you, think about why and what they are going through, before getting angry. Without fully knowing what someone is going through, how and why are we making our own conclusions?
Try to understand things from a different perspective, and it might lead us to connect with others’ emotions and perspective better.
3. Join a shared cause
Working on a project with a similar vision and aim reinforces everyone’s individual strengths and minimises the differences that can divide people.
For example, people who have experienced similar grief or loss are able to connect better with individuals in the same predicament, or have experienced something similar.
4. Show emotional support
At times, what others are looking for are not answers, but rather empathy and support. Giving emotional support means giving the people who trust you, your full trust and affirmation. A supportive statement means the world to someone who needs to hear it.
Sometimes, we all need a reminder that there is someone supporting us without judgement or bias, in a world filled with fear and uncertainty.