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How to Show Empathy & Learn to Understand Someone Else’s Feelings

Empathy is an important skill to have. Most people have a certain amount naturally, but if you want to learn how to show empathy, follow these tips.

how to show empathy

When it comes gto understanding how to show empathy, some people are naturally quite empathetic. They’re pretty sensitive to everything around them and they find it easy to put themselves in the shoes of other people.

Yet, some people find it a little harder and need to develop the skill themselves.

Either way is fine, the fact that you want to learn how to show empathy is a great first step.

After all, we could all do with being more sensitive to the feelings and experiences of other people. When you do that, you’re able to connect on a deeper level and have better relationships.

Of course, showing empathy means putting your own feelings to one side and not being selfish. Every human being on the planet is selfish sometimes, it’s just part of who we are. But, when you show empathy, you’re able to limit that and put yourself in the other person’s position.

[Read: 7 reasons why empathy is important in a relationship]

What is empathy exactly?

Before we start talking about how to show empathy, we need to talk about what it is – after all, you can’t show something you’re not sure about!

Empathy is essentially putting yourself in another person’s shoes. If someone is going through something, whether it’s good or bad, you’re able to understand more about how they feel.

Maybe you can read their body language or their non-verbal cues, or perhaps you just get a general feel about what’s really going on. You can appreciate their struggle even if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

You might be wondering about the word ’empath.’ That’s slightly different. You can show empathy and not be an empath.

An empath is someone who is extremely sensitive to the vibrations and vibes from other people and they’re able to take on their feelings as their own. So, if someone is feeling angry, an empath would start to feel angry too, simply by being around them.

By learning how to show empathy, you’re not taking it to that degree, you’re just being able to understand and appreciate other people and their feelings. [Read: The difference between an empath and an empathetic person and the fatigue of having too much empathy]

How to show empathy and understand others more clearly

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 fade. 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 the things they do. At the end of the day, most of us have empathy already, but sometimes it gets buried and now it’s time to bring it out.

Let’s learn how to show empathy and make the world a better place. [Read: 20 signs of a lack of empathy that show they don’t care what you think]

1. Take a moment to 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 for a moment

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 really listen to the other person.

3. Make sure you 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.

Sometimes, people just want to be heard and that’s enough. They don’t always want advice. [Read: 11 sweet and intimate ways to show how much you care]

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, anger, or another emotion. 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, we 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 only from their perspective *without judging them for it!*. [Read: How to grow into a better and kinder person]

9. Try to connect to the other 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 to 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. [Read: How to stop being selfish – 20 ways to stop hurting and using others]

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 with importance

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 tell what your partner feels and learn to read their mind instantly]

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.

14. Don’t attempt to solve their problem for them

When someone comes to you with a problem or you feel like they’re struggling, it’s natural to want to make it better. That’s a pleasant trait but it’s not always what they want or need.

Avoid trying to solve the problem for them. Simply listen and if they ask for your advice, then you can give it. Don’t just jump straight in and give your opinion unless it’s asked for. [Read: How to resolve conflict – The 15 best ways to cut out the drama]

15. Learn to read their body language

A person’s body language can say a lot about what they’re really feeling. All too often, we try to hide what’s going on and pretend that everything is fine.

We put on a brave face and try to get on with it. But, when you learn how to show empathy, you’re able to cut through all of that and you can recognize when something isn’t quite right with a person.

In some ways, you don’t even need to know them that well, their body language will tell you all you need to know.

Look for avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, putting their arms across their body, rubbing their ear or nose, playing with clothing or their hair. These are all distraction techniques that show that what they’re saying to you isn’t quite the real picture.

Verbally, you can also look for fast talking, stuttering or stumbling over their words, seeming distracted, or speaking quietly. [Read: How to make someone feel better – 30 powerful ways to help a sad friend]

How are empathy and sympathy different?

These two terms are often confused but they’re actually distinctively different. It’s important to know the difference so you’re actually working on how to show empathy and not how to become more sympathetic.

When you show sympathy, you’re seeing things from your point of view. Yes, you have listened to what the situation is and you’re sympathizing by thinking about how it would feel in your own body.

But, when you show empathy, you’re not in your own mind or your own body, you’re in theirs – metaphorically speaking. You’re putting yourself in their position, not your own. [Read: How to be kind to yourself and others and love life instead of hating it]

Can you see the subtle difference?

They’re both important skills to have but they’re needed at different times. When you need to show empathy, you need to leave your own judgments, opinions, and views at the door and simply focus on the other person.

However, if you show sympathy, you’re sympathizing because of your own views and opinions.

[Read: How to develop empathy in your own life and master the art of growing a real heart]

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 special takes time.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...