Merriam-Webster defines empathy as:
“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
It might seem like empathy is something that you do for others, but it’s not just other people that benefit from your empathy. Your empathy benefits you just as much as it does other people.
See how being empathetic enhances your life in countless ways:
- It enhances your relationships. When you’re empathetic, you understand the thoughts and emotions of others. Empathy greatly reduces the occurrence of misunderstandings. You’ll also be far less likely to offend anyone in your life.
- Empathy improves your ability to form new relationships. It’s not just current relationships that benefit from your empathy. Your ability to create new relationships is also greatly improved. Empathetic people are likeable and able to bond with others more easily.
- Your ability to negotiate is greatly enhanced. A high degree of empathy will increase your ability to negotiate with your kids, spouse, partner, boss or business associates.
- Empathy can help your career. Navigating your way through the workplace becomes easier when your empathic skills are at a high level. You begin to understand what everyone at work needs and wants. Knowing this information makes you a powerful person.
- Your self-esteem improves. When you get along better with others, are liked by more people, and are more successful in general, your self-esteem goes through the roof.
- It makes you more valuable to others. People like people that are empathetic. Your ability to influence others is greatly affected by your ability to be empathetic. When you have a high degree of influence over others, you’re in a position to do more for your friends, family, employer, customers, and clients.
- Your understanding of people in general is enhanced. Empathy gives a peek into how the minds of others work. You begin to see the similarity between seemingly dissimilar people. You can’t fully understand people and their motivations without being highly empathetic.
- Life is easier. When you put all of these advantages together, you make your life a lot easier. Your relationships are better. Your career is enhanced. You feel better about yourself and are better able to influence others. Having empathy benefits you as much as it does the people around you.
If you’re not naturally empathetic, that’s okay. You can develop this skill with some effort and observation.
Here are some quick tips to increase your capacity to be empathetic:
- Be an excellent listener. Give the other person your full attention and be an active listener.
- Imagine yourself in the other person’s situation. This is an especially helpful tip. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how you would feel. What emotions would you experience? What would you be thinking?
- They are probably thinking and feeling the same way.
- Consider how you would want someone to react if the situation were reversed. Take another step and think about what you’d like someone to do or say if you were in the other person’s situation.
Empathy is a skill that benefits you as much as it does the people on the receiving end of your empathy. Empathy is a skill that anyone can learn. Build on your capacity to be empathetic and notice the changes it has on your life.