3 Simple Ways You Can Practice Empathy and Build Relationships
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Do you feel like you have this emotional skill? How developed is it? Is this something that friends/co-workers/family/peers have suggested you need help with?
What about your friendships and relationships? Do you sometimes feel like you don’t have any really deep connections with friends, just shallow small talk or short comments on social media interactions?
Well, I would imagine to say that most of us at one time or another, have failed at understanding or sharing the feelings of others, and depending on the situation, it can be a very hurtful and lasting impression on a valued relationship. This can also develop into casual relationships that never get past talking about the weather, your kids, or the local news.
Today, I’d like to help with three tips I have researched, practiced and shown to be effective in daily practice, that will help you not only develop empathy, but also hopefully create more valuable, and long lasting relationships. Wouldn’t it be nice to have several authentic friendships that you feel committed to and vice versa?
Tip #1: STOP- LISTEN- REFLECT
This seems simple, but it can be quite difficult especially when in heated conversation or argument. Take a moment, listen to the other person without interrupting, memorize the key points as they speak. Then when they are done, start reflecting their key points by saying “ what I heard you say was….”
This can help in two ways. First, if you heard wrong, it gives the other person a chance to correct and clear up any confusion. Second, if you heard right, and reflected back correctly, the other person will recognize that you understand them, which will reduce tension drastically. This can work in all relationships whether your children, your spouse, your co-workers, or friends.
TIP #2 TALK TO A STRANGER
I know, it goes against everything we’ve been taught growing up right? Momma always said don’t talk to strangers. Hear me out, when I say talk to a stranger, I mean the person you are in line with at the grocery store, the cashier helping you pay for your meal, or the neighbor a few doors down that you have lived near for several years, yet you still don’t know each other’s names. I’m not saying randomly go speak to a stranger that makes you feel unsafe or at risk. Make sense?
Often a significant deterrent to building empathy is our own stereotypes and perceptions of what people are all about, based on how they look. We may develop a type of bias based on the type of clothes they wear, what type of hairstyle, piercings, ethnicity, accents, etc.
We must re-think our insecurities about people that aren’t like ourselves and overcome our fear. Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of the unknown, just plain fear.
Some easy conversation starters could be:
How has your day been? (Cashier, receptionist, or co-workers, pretty much anyone will like this one)
What’s your favorite kind of candy? (While standing in the check out line at the grocery store)
How do you know the host? (Any event or party)
What was the highlight of your day today? (For someone you see often but don’t know them well or don’t know their name, like a neighbor, a student, or co-worker from nearby office)
How’s that….drink/food/game/book? Ask about whatever someone is holding or doing. Easy opener for just about anyone.
Tip #3: EXPERIENCE HOW OTHER PEOPLE LIVE
“Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.” While we can’t always step into another person’s life, volunteering in neighborhoods or communities that aren’t like your own can be a great way to get perspective on how other people live.
"Following" people on social media that are different than you, have a different ethnicity, lifestyle, or background may be helpful in getting some insight and perspective. Keep in mind, social media can also be covered with the “picture perfect” lens, so although valuable, in some cases not very authentic depending on the individual’s content approach.
Another great way to learn this perspective is to READ A BOOK! This is such a great tool and often undervalued now with so much quick-fix technology fueling our daily thoughts and attention. Take an imaginative journey into another person’s world and discover what kind of lives there are outside of yours.
Especially now with Covid safety limitations we may find it hard to travel and be super involved in community events. Reading a book or two may just be exactly what you need to gain a little insight to lifestyles and personalities outside of your own.
Now, what should you do with this info? Please take these tips and consider how you can implement them into your daily interactions. Consider how you may encourage your family, children, co-workers, and friends to do the same. Visualize the variety of ways it can work for you so that when the opportunity presents itself, you will be ready!
If you need more help or ideas on how to develop your own emotional skill of empathy, feel free to set up a consult so we can discuss your individual needs and questions. We are glad to help and would love to get to know you better too! Click www.leanwellonline.com/services-1 to schedule your consult today.
Krznaric, R., & Carpe Diem: Seizing the Day in a Distracted World. (2014, November 06). 5 Ways to Be More Empathetic. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://time.com/3562863/5-ways-to-be-more-empathetic/
Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Natzvoi, Frontncenter, Emuobonuvie, R., . . . Face, L. (2020, July 19). 57 Killer Conversation Starters So You Can Talk to Anyone. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.scienceofpeople.com/conversation-starters-topics/