Empathy is emotional intelligence. It is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, to view the world through another’s eyes. To be able to perceive the feelings and emotions of another and convey that understanding to the other person.
The word and definition “empathy” was created in the early 1900’s by pioneer scientific psychologists. Since that time, the definition has continued to transform and expand.
When we develop the ability to empathise with one another, we begin to understand a fundamental truth that allows us to recognise that we are a part of something larger. That we are interconnected within an intricate web of relationships extending throughout life and the Universe.
I believe that every human being on this planet has the ability to develop empathy and it may be the next stage of humanity’s evolution.
Here are 5 ways to develop your gift of empathy…..
1. Learn To Listen To Understand
This skill is vital when being empathic. In order to put ourselves into the shoes of another, we must learn to listen to understand rather than listen to reply.
In your interactions with friends or relatives, where they wish to convey how they are feeling, become aware as to whether you are listening to understand or whether you begin to formulate a reply. If you find that you are thinking of your reply, then you are not listening to understand. Keep bringing your attention back to the person and listen to their words.
2. Work Backwards
When you listen to what the other person is telling you, work backwards from their current position to where the problem may have started. An example could be where they have developed depression which stems from job loss.
When asking questions to understand their situation, work backwards from the disclosure of depression rather than asking them to start from the beginning i.e. when they lost their job. This allows the person to take their attention away from their current situation an, instead, focus on the root of the problem. In this scenario, the job loss is the root of the depression.
3. Swap Places
When I was a child, I used to play a game where I would imagine that I swapped places with other people, animals, even a tree. I would close my eyes and really imagine what it must be like to be that other person/animal object. I would try to feel how they felt, not just in terms of what I would think, but the emotions I would have and how it would physically feel.
When you practise using your gift of empathy, try to swap places in the following way and note your perceptions in terms of thoughts, physical feelings and emotions.
4. Love = Empathy
As empathy is the vehicle through which love, kindness and compassion flows, imagine your heart filling and expanding with love for the person you are extending empathy to. Imagine your heart bursting with love. This will help to strengthen your desire to be empathic.
5. Be Curious
Be curious of the people around you, the environment, cultures and different places. The art of being curious will expand your awareness which in turn will expand your abilities to empathise with others.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2016. All Rights Reserved.