An anonymous English author once said, “To empathize is to see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, and to feel with the heart of another.” Have you ever heard the expression, “Try walking a mile in her shoes?” Well, that is exactly what this author was talking about and that is what it means to have empathy. Empathy is a skill that allows us to understand others’ thoughts, views, and feelings. Empathy makes us aware of the emotions and needs of others so that we can interact with them skillfully.
Everyone has a unique life experience, which shapes their personality, thoughts, and emotions. Without empathy, these key differences between people can lead to misunderstandings, division, and prejudices. Think of empathy as the bridge that closes this gap and connects yourself to others. Empathy allows you to cross the waters between people who happen to think differently from you.
Practicing empathy will help you to improve your life on so many levels. You will see benefits on a personal level with your friends and family, and professionally, with your coworkers and customers.
The following list outlines just a few of the many benefits of practicing empathy:
- Communicate better with others
- Have more and better quality friendships
- Be a better leader
- Understand the needs and feelings of others
- Deal better with interpersonal conflicts
- Life success
The real world bottom line is that lack of empathy leads to poor communication and a failing to understand others. Lack of empathy leads to all sorts of problems in our world. Crime, abuse, and neglect are all due to a lack of empathy and understanding. Scientists have even linked the lack of empathy to criminal behaviors such as stealing, drug dealing, and murder. An inability to feel a victim’s pain is a common trait among people who break the law. This inability allows a criminal to act without the pain of guilt. Although not all individuals who lack empathy are criminals, people who lack empathy miss out on a very important part of life.
No two people share the same thoughts, emotions or life experiences. Our thoughts and experiences play a huge role in how we perceive the outside world. In order to truly understand other people, you need to understand their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. The following skill areas will help you develop a deeper sense of understanding and empathy for others:
1. Trust and Openness
5. Empathetic Listening