Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Having the ability to put yourself in other’s shoes and to relate and understand where they are coming from, even if you have not been in the situation before.
It goes without saying that being empathetic is an important skill. I have shared personal problems with friends before but got replies that made me feel worse and deeply regret sharing my problem. I have also made casual remarks that people would pick up, which later turned into heartfelt conversations.
When you are empathetic toward others, you help them feel better about themselves. You let them know that they are not alone in their problems. You also strengthen your relationship with the person because when you seek to share the feelings of the other, you allow thoughts and emotions to flow between the both of you.
So how can we be more empathetic? Here are 5 ways to guide us to become more empathetic to others.
1) Acknowledge Their Pain
Perhaps the best thing you can do is to acknowledge how the other person feels. When you connect with someone’s pain or struggle, it helps him feel supported. It shows you understand (or are trying to understand) how they might be feeling.
People in pain really want to be heard. They want validation that what they're going through is difficult.
2) Show Interest
Going through difficulties can be terribly isolating and lonely. That’s why people share their struggles — they are longing for connection. They want someone to take an interest in their story and understand how they are feeling.
The best way to connect with someone is not by talking but by listening. Show you care by asking questions and showing a genuine interest in what they have to say.
3) Don't Be Judgy
Judgment can immediately shut down a conversation. This is the same for prejudgment, which means forming a judgment on an issue or the person you're talking to before you have all of the information.
4) Share How You Feel
Sometimes, it’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say or that you’re having a hard time imagining what it would be like to experience what the other person is going through.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t diminish the other person’s experience or make it all about you. Instead, focus on sharing your feelings to help you better connect with theirs.
5) Be Encouraging
I believe most people really want to be encouraging when a friend or loved one is going through a tough time.
The problem is that we often show this by trying to “fix” the problem of forcing the person to look on the bright side. And while our intentions are good, this approach is rarely helpful to the person in pain.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be encouraging. You have to be mindful of how you approach it.
Always try and find different methods, and be mindful of these sensitive topics. Different people can have different coping skills and sensitivity levels.
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