When I was younger, I didn’t really know how to show empathy or even what empathy was. I was in my own world. When you’re a teenager, everything revolves around you and your troubles. The problems other people go through seem like good gossip. That’s about it. What can I say? When you’re young, you’re selfish.
And it’s okay to admit that. We all were teenagers once. But now that we’re older, it’s time to become more aware of what’s going on around us. You can’t use the “but I’m just a kid” card forever *even though it was nice while you could*.
Empathy is essentially putting yourself in another person’s shoes. If someone is going through something, whether it’s good or bad, being able to understand how they’re feeling is a great skill to have. [Read: The guilt-free guide to understanding and overcoming empathy fatigue]
How to show empathy and change the world
Today, everyone focuses on exposing each other’s flaws and judging one another. It’s stressful and puts a lot of pressure on people. More than ever, people are angry and fearful about what’s going on in their lives. But if you show empathy, you actually change the way people feel.
By understanding another person, the anger and fear they feel fades. Not only does being empathetic help the people around you, but it also helps you.
You connect with other people on a deeper level and understand why people do and say things. At the end of the day, we all have empathy in us *if not, you’re probably a psychopath*. But sometimes empathy gets lost in us, and now it’s time to bring it out. Let’s learn how to show empathy and make the world a better place.
#1 Put yourself in their shoes. This is what empathy is all about. When two people are fighting, the problem is they’re not seeing each other’s point of view. Sure, one person may think they’re right, but that doesn’t mean the other’s feelings aren’t valid. It’s crucial you try to think about how the other person is feeling and why they’re acting in a certain way. Put yourself in their position. [Read: How you can learn to be a better listener]
#2 Shut up. Sorry, maybe that was a bit harsh… but, was it? When it comes to empathy, you’re going to have to stop talking.
Wait, of course, you can still talk, but if you really want to show empathy, you need to listen. How can you understand another person if you’re the only one speaking? Before you start talking about yourself, take a breath, and try to listen to the other person.
#3 But really listen. If you want to show empathy, you need to be genuine. If someone is talking to you, listen. No, this doesn’t mean you should be on your phone and saying “yeah,” every couple of seconds to make it look like you’re there. You need to be an active listener. If not, you’re being fake. [Read: Learn how to open up to people and build real relationships]
#4 Show that you care. Aside from being an active listener, you also need to show you care about what they’re talking about. If someone is telling you a personal problem, they clearly aren’t feeling good and are searching for support.
Show that you’re their support system. Ask them questions like, “how are you feeling?” or “is there something I can do to help you?” Even meeting up with them for a coffee can help greatly.
#5 Recognize their feelings. If someone is going through a personal struggle, whatever they’re feeling is valid. Just because you don’t fully understand, doesn’t mean they can’t feel sadness or anger. You need to acknowledge their feelings and let them know what they’re feeling is okay. We all process situations differently. For example, if someone loses their pet, they may feel sad, angry, or anxious. Everyone is different, and that’s okay.
#6 Ask more questions. Usually, when we see people struggling, we tend to avoid asking too many questions. We either don’t want to get too involved or think it’s rude to ask questions, but that’s what you need to do. You need to ask questions.
How else will you be able to show support if you don’t know what’s going on? Of course, you don’t have to ask intimate questions straight away, but asking, “what happened?” is a great start. [Read: 14 steps to emotionally connect with someone and feel closer]
#7 Keep all questions open-ended. Your goal is to get the person to confide in you. If you’re asking yes or no questions, you’re not going to get far. If you want to learn how to show empathy, keep the questions open-ended. This means the questions you’ll be asking cannot be answered just by saying yes or no. Instead, they have to at least give you a sentence. This will allow you to help them get everything off of their chest.
#8 Stop making judgments. Listen, we all judge each other, this isn’t something that’s going to change. So, I won’t tell you to stop judging people, in general. But, when you’re trying to show empathy, don’t judge them at that moment.
You need to show yourself as a clean slate. Leave your critiques at the door, and really focus on trying to understand what they’re going through. [Read: How to grow into a better and kinder person]
#9 Try to connect to the person. You may not agree with how they feel or how they handled the situation, but it doesn’t matter. You need to connect yourself to this person. Try to think about why they acted the way they did. If you’re not judging them, you’ll be able to see why they reacted in that manner.
#10 Don’t talk about yourself. No, this isn’t a competition for the saddest story. If someone is going through a difficult situation, this isn’t the time to use yourself as a comparison or show off. You need to focus on their problem. The moment you talk about yourself, you’ve lost the moment and have tried to switch the spotlight onto you. It’s not about you.
#11 Challenge your own prejudices. We all have our beliefs, and when you’re trying to show empathy, your beliefs are going to be challenged. Now, this isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s great. Not only are you working on showing empathy, but you’re also developing yourself. We’re all biased in some sense, but asking yourself why you think the way you do will help you become a well-rounded person.
#12 Treat them as being important. To show empathy, you need to treat them like they’re the most important person in the room. Leave any distractions at the door because you won’t need them.
Right now, you need to give your complete attention to them. This is the only way they’ll feel comfortable to open up to you. Plus, it shows you don’t act superior to them. [Read: How to be a better person with 10 small changes]
#13 You’ll need to practice. Showing empathy the right way isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Yes, most of us are naturally empathetic, but you’ll need some skills to display it effectively. Of course, by using these tips, you will appropriately show empathy, but it will take some time to get it right.
[Read: How to develop empathy in your own life]
By knowing how to show empathy, you’ll be able to live a more fulfilling and healthier life. It’ll take some time to develop, but everything takes time.
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