Empathy is a skill that you can grow and develop. It’s not constant, and it’s something you need practice regularly. During the day you may flow from having times of high and low empathy.
Here are five tips to help you grow your empathy skills quickly:
1. Practice active listening
Active listening involves approaching a conversation with a genuine desire to understand the other person’s feelings and perspective, without judgment or defensiveness.
When you engage in active listening, you tune into what your conversation partner is saying without interrupting him or her, paying careful attention to their body language and facial expressions and periodically repeating back to them what you think they’re trying to say, to make sure you understand them accurately.
Research suggests that practicing active listening can increase empathy and improve relationship satisfaction.
2. Share in other people’s joy
Empathy is not just about commiserating; you can experience it in response to positive emotions like happiness and pride.
Research on “capitalization” suggests that empathy for positive events—such as expressing enthusiasm when someone shares good news—can be just as crucial for relationship well-being as empathy for adverse events.
3. Look for commonalities with others
When interacting with people who at first glance seem to be different from you, look for sources of commonality and shared experience. Maybe you’re fans of the same sports team, or both know what it’s like to lose a loved one.
If nothing else, you can remind yourself that you are both members of the human species. Seeing your Shared Identity can help you overcome fear and distrust and promote empathy and cooperation.
4. Listen to your heartbeat
Scientists have discovered people who are more aware of their heartbeat are better at perceiving the emotions of people around them. Why does it work? They don’t know why yet but you can still benefit from using this technique.
5. Read more fiction
Reading a great work of literature—or watching a film or play—allows us to temporarily step out of our own lives and fully immerse ourselves in another person’s. We learn through relating to the character’s perspective.