At times, empathy in relationships can make or break it. With that being said, it’s obvious why it’s so important to understand. If you’re not sure how to show empathy, even if you’re feeling empathetic, these easy-to-follow tips can help strengthen any relationship, and will leave you and the other party feeling happy, satisfied, and filled with trust!
What Is Empathy?
To put it simply, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. If you can sense how another person is feeling, or sense their emotions, you are experiencing empathy. If you have the ability to to imagine what another person might be feeling or thinking, you are also experiencing empathy.
So, why is empathy important? Empathy is crucial for developing relationships in your life. It allows us to understand others, have compassion for others, and helps us make moral decisions.
Empathy doesn’t always have to be towards other humans, either. You can be empathetic towards animals, or fictional characters on television, or in a book. When we are able to be empathetic, we are able to understand and relate to others. When it comes to relationships, understanding is at the forefront of success.
Empathy vs Sympathy
While empathy might sound a lot like sympathy, they are not the same because they are two different types of emotions. Sympathy means to feel concern for someone else, while hoping they become happier.
Empathy, on the other hand, means to actively share in their emotions. How to show empathy then means that you are experiencing their feelings, rather than just showing concern.
Now that you know the difference between empathy and sympathy, we’ll cover how to be more empathetic in the next section. When you know how to show empathy in your relationships and within your interactions with others, positivity, trust and connection are built.
How To Be More Empathetic
When learning how to be more empathetic, and how to show empathy, there are things you can do to build on your current relationships, and things you can do to build new ones.
1. Walk a mile in their shoes
You’ve heard this saying before, but have you ever actually done it? A great way, if you’re asking yourself how to be more empathetic, is to “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”. Meaning, put yourself in a position to experience what they experience. For example, attend another person’s place of worship for a day, check out a neighborhood you might not normally go to, talk with a homeless person you’ve seen in your community, volunteer for an organization of the opposite political beliefs. Doing these things might make you uncomfortable at first, but it will give you great perspective to understand what someone else might be going through that you, yourself, may not have experienced before. This will ultimately help you to truly understand how to show empathy.
2. Read. Yes, read
Just as you show empathy in your real-life relationships, books are a great way to practice how to be more empathetic. When you dive into a book you enjoy, you’re diving into the lives of others, whether the characters in the book are fictional or not. Books allow you to enter the minds, hearts, and thoughts of others in the story, and you probably have one laying around you’ve been waiting to read for a while now! Try choosing books with characters that are different from you, with different backgrounds and different life circumstances. Not only are books a great way to boost mental capacity, but they are a surprisingly excellent way to help you when learning how to show empathy.
3. Stand up for others
A great way to do this when practicing how to show empathy, is to do it silently. Allow others to speak their minds and share how they’re feeling, and actively listen to them. You don’t have to be silent all the time though. You can donate to charitable causes, share scholarly articles written by underrepresented groups, speak up and take action when someone makes a discriminatory or offensive remark.
The Bottom Line
There are so many things you can do when practicing how to show empathy, but these three steps on how to be more empathetic are a great place to start, and are things you can easily incorporate into your everyday life. Remember, being empathetic and showing empathy is a cornerstone of a successful relationship, so take the time to understand others, show compassion, and actively listen when others tell you what they might be feeling.