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Empathy is a trait that allows you to understand how another person feels. It goes along with the saying about putting yourself in another’s shoes. People have a natural level of empathy, but being able to expand upon it and make it stronger is something that will improve your personal relationships. It is important that you are able to be caring and kind to others and for this to be genuine you must be able to empathize with them. Use a variety of methods to improve your empathy and start being there more thoroughly for those you care about.
Challenge the Stereotypes and Prejudices Prevalent in Society
One of the biggest obstacles of empathy is stereotypes and prejudices. These two factors put up a wall and make it hard to try and stand in another person’s shoes. They block you from trying to relate to those who you hold stereotypes and prejudices against. You must be active in not holding these against anyone because they are so ingrained into society and how human beings perceive things. Think about the ones that you currently hold and why you hold them. In most cases, you will see that your stereotypes and prejudices are completely unfounded.
Remember that all people have feelings and hard times. This is true no matter their lifestyle and outward appearance. Remembering these facts will help you to overcome the stereotypes and prejudices that may be preventing you from improving your empathy.
Work on Your Skills as an Active Listener
Being able to listen is critical, but you have to really listen when someone is talking. It is different to just hear what they have to say. You need to be able to feel their emotions and think about how you would feel if you were in the same situation. For example, if someone is confiding in you because they were just laid off, as you are listening, think about how you would feel if you just abruptly lost your job. This allows you to see where they are coming from so that you can offer them a deeper level of help and comfort.
Be Curious About the People Around You
Pay attention to the people who are around you when you are out in your community. This does not mean that you have to stare and take notes, but be mindful of their actions and how they carry themselves. You will often find that what is on the surface does not go deep and that they are not much different than you, allowing you to see how you can easily empathize with just about anyone.
Be Open and Sharing with Other People
Being open with other people is important because it helps them to trust you. This does not mean you have to tell everyone everything or share your most intimate secrets on social media, but be candid with those you love about your aspirations and fears. When people see that you are willing to share yourself with them, they are more willing to share with and be honest with you. Just remember to share with a balance because you do not want what you have to share to overshadow anything that they need to say to start feeling better.
Go Outside of Your Comfort Zone
You really need to wear the shoes of other people once in a while to really deepen your empathy. A great way to do this is to start volunteering so that you are exposed to different types of people and different lifestyles. Volunteer with the homeless and spend time really talking to them and getting to know them. This allows you a glimpse into what their life is really like so that you can abandon any preconceived notions that you may have. The truth is that people are really not that different once you peel away their surface layers and get to know them.
When you start to build your empathy, you will notice that people are also more empathetic to you too. Your relationships will improve and you will be more helpful to people when they are having a rough time. Improving your empathy is a constant process and not something you can do in a day. You want to work on this trait gradually so that you are getting the full benefit and making sure that your improvements are real and genuine. Just remember to take it slow and know that even the smallest improvements are highly beneficial.