Empathy is one of the most essential skills we need to have in order to not just survive but make the world a better place. Empathy brings every one of us closer to each other, thus uniting us and making as one. That is why it is really important to practice empathy and make it a part of our daily lives. While others are naturally empathetic than some, there are exercises that anyone can do to improve. Here are some ways on how to be empathetic in everyday life.
Be interested in other people’s lives
In order to have empathy, we need to at least have interest in other people’s lives. We need to have a healthy level of curiosity about how others are going about their day. Go out. Talk to people. Engage with others and listen to their stories. By doing this, we can easily put ourselves in their situation and understand them in a deeper level. As Jodi Halpern, a psychiatrist and bioethics professor at the University of California, Berkeley said, “For me, the core of empathy is curiosity.”
You might be thinking, “Well, I listen all the time!”, but we might not be aware that we’re actually not listening. Zino of Citium, founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” Remember, hearing is different from listening. The former means you are aware of the sounds (voice) coming from the other person, but you’re not getting what they’re saying. The latter is fully engaging your full attention to the other person, making their words go into your mind. Listening will help you understand what others are saying, so listen attentively when talking to someone.
Honesty really is the best policy. When you speak from your heart, other people will see it as being sincere and honest. This will make them think you’re a good person and that you understand them. This will also make them more honest towards you. To strengthen a bond and truly connect with the other person, you both need to speak from the heart and show your vulnerabilities.
Try to live someone else’s life
Sometimes, standing in someone else’s shoes is not enough. You actually need to take a walk in them! Empathy is not just being aware of other people’s feelings, but also understanding them in a deeper level. For example, when you find someone extremely bothersome, acknowledging the fact that he is stressed is good, but you can go further than that. Try to see how much sleep they get, how healthy their meals are, or how hard their job is.
Work with others
Working with others is a great way to improve your empathy. By forming a team or group to do a project together, you will bound to get to know who they are and what their stories are. For instance, when you work with your classmates for a group project, you’ll spend countless hours to do it. In these hours, you’ll know more about them. You’ll share meals and laugh with them. You will get stressed out alongside them. And you’ll triumph with them. As the English poet John Donne said, “No man is an island.”
Showing affection is another way of creating a deeper connection with others. It can be a hug, a handshake, a pat in the back, or even sitting beside them while they talk. Humans are physical beings, so these physical gestures are great for letting them know you’re there for them. Just make sure you don’t go overboard; you don’t want to hug someone who’s not a close friend or is uncomfortable with it.
Reading is an awesome way of learning something. Dr. Seuss said, “The more you read, the more things you will know.” If you have the time, try to look for books about empathy. It can be novels, papers, or even stories for kids! Any book is great as long as you thoroughly read and understand its contents. If you’re looking for an amazing and simple book about empathy, you should try The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal
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Also, watch this amazing Ted Talk about the topic: