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How to Be More Empathetic and Forge Emotional Connections

ways to be empathetic and build connections

Empathy is the most powerful way to create emotional connections. Whether for your romantic or family life, here are 11 ways to increase empathy. By Filip Teovanovic

Inside every person you know, there is a person you don’t know. In order to meet and fully understand another human being, you have to offer them more than just chit-chat. Empathy is a human right humans seem to forget about. We live in a world where a lot of people do not feel motivated to connect with others. When they do, they complain that their partner fundamentally does not understand them and they don’t feel a close connection.

Often, when you ask if they talked about it with their partner or friends, they respond with something like, “They didn’t listen. They only wanted to talk about superficial things.” That may be true; not everyone wants to constantly drown in deep conversations… but what about deep emotions?

How to create emotional connections

It seems like all those alienated and frustrated people feel disconnected because they are not trying hard enough to connect with their partners. “It’s not me, it’s you,” they keep saying to all the dead plants they couldn’t be bothered to water. Those same people are probably just as prone to engaging in superficial conversations, and don’t realize that intimacy is a two-way street. If you close yourself off to others, you will eventually hit a dead end. [Read: 16 non-sexual touches to feel connected and loved]

If you really want to understand your partner and the people around you, you need to learn how to fuel empathy. Fortunately, we’ve identified some methods to do so below.

#1 The first step toward empathy is overcoming your own fears. From potential emotional wounds, heartbreaks, misunderstandings, and especially overcoming your fear of being left, you must confront your fears. Start with yourself and never stop. Instead of thinking, “No one will ever understand me. I’m going to die alone,” shift your attention toward what you can do to improve. As you envision yourself being fearless, your mind will naturally move in that direction.

#2 You have to put in extra effort to understand yourself. How are you going to understand others if you don’t understand yourself? Reading about your zodiac sign is definitely not sufficient. Reflection means being curious about yourself and not egotistical, and being prepared to give up your narcissism and megalomania. Understanding yourself means accepting your strengths and weaknesses unconditionally. [Try: How self respect affects you and your relationship]

#3 When the first two conditions are satisfied, you can start working on empathy. In this step, you move from introspection to inspection. Empathy is a shortcut to understanding. It means understanding through emotions. It is less about asking questions, and more about listening to and feeling out the emotions of others. Mutual respect and understanding are such rare gifts that if you are able to achieve them, you should hold on as tightly as you can.

#4 Empathy requires tolerance and stepping into another’s shoes. Being empathetic means entering someone’s world and spending time in it like you are in your own home. It includes continual sensitivity to outbursts of feelings your partner might have, such as fear, anger, vulnerability, and confusion. It requires you to walk in someone’s shoes.

#5 You must dig deeper, rather than taking everything at face value. When your partner expresses emotions, or shows signs of being upset, don’t take the first thing they say or do at face value. Instead, try to understand why they might be feeling or reacting that way. Communicate. Once you have gained a better understanding of their behavior, ask them questions to determine the root of the problem. [Haven’t been honing in on those emotions? Read: 18 emotional affair signs you probably didn’t notice]

#6 Focus on the emotional component of what your partner is trying to say to you. Whatever the content of your conversation might be, don’t neglect it, and pay special attention on the energy your lover is emitting. Asking, “How do you feel?” is more important than comprehending every facet of the situation. Additionally, pay attention to their behavior and body language, such as their posture and tone of voice. Be hypersensitive.

#7 Identify the full spectrum of your partner’s feelings. Sometimes, people do not articulate what they feel. Noticing gestures, the look in their eyes, pauses in speech, etc., helps you detect if there is something latent a person is not willing to talk about. If you are really interested, go for it and ask. This way, you are telling your partner, “I am listening to you, and I want to understand you.” In doing this, you make it easier for them to disclose their feelings.

#8 Point out polarized emotions. Those who are ashamed tend to be quiet about their own contradictions. One minute, they may say they are struggling with something and, the next minute, they negate that they ever admitted such a thing. You are the one who needs to indicate that. Maybe they are just confused and you can unwind the knot they got wrapped up in. [Try: What is a good relationship? The signs]

#9 Summarize your partner’s communication. When your partner speaks, summarize their communication to let them know you not only heard what they said, but understand it.

#10 Focus on current feelings and use present tense. Even if their roller coaster of emotions is projected way into the future, or is focusing on the past, relate it to the present. By doing so, you help them navigate their own emotions, and offer a strong shoulder of support.

#11 Sometimes, a beautiful act of empathy means leaving someone alone. Put their needs first. Even though you want to be close and offer help, it might be counterproductive if your partner needs space. Temporary isolation can be beneficial for both partners. It is another step toward intimacy, because you are demonstrating your ability to put your own wants and needs on the backburner.

[Next, read: 30 deep questions to ask someone before you get in too far]

In developing empathy and emotional connections, we help our partners and create a more thorough understanding of human emotions. Fostering this skill will empower your romantic, friendly, and familial relationships, and will connect you more fully to the world around you.

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