I often wondered what my superpower would be if I had to name one. Over the years I’ve learned to empathize with people, their problems and offer a listening ear when necessary. This trait became equally useful in business as solving problems and listening to customers are fundamental stepping stones to success. But it’s not easy to practice empathy. Without proper boundaries, it can deplete your energy and harm your health. I’ve learned this the hard way…
In an increasingly individualistic value system, our society often encourages us to see ourselves as separate from others. Decisions are usually made from a place of ‘what’s in it for me’ (they even have a business acronym for this WIIFM) thus the power of a collective is often overlooked. Empathy brings us closer to each other and brings consideration of the other person’s circumstances, feelings and challenges to the fore.
Definition of Empathy
I was curious to see how empathy is defined by recent studies so I’ve Googled it:
“Empathy is the ability to perceive others’ feelings and thoughts. It’s the ability to recognize your own emotions that help you imagine why someone might be feeling a certain way and to have concern for their welfare. It’s an active attempt to understand another person.”
If you ever wondered how to recognize someone who is showing up in the world with empathy, these are a few signs of empathic people:
+ they are active listeners
+ people tend to tell them about their problems
+ they are good at picking up how others are feeling
+ other people come to them for advice
+ they try helping others who struggle or suffer
+ they often feel overwhelmed by tragic events
+ they can pick up on dishonesty from a mile away
+ they care deeply about other people, but especially family and friends
+ they find it difficult to set boundaries in their relationships
Why empathy matters?
Being able to experience empathy and respond with kindness not only improves one’s quality of life but also opens doors to opportunities, creativity and social belonging. After all, we are social beings and hardwired to connect.
+ Empathy allows people to build social connections with others. Research shows this is important for both physical and psychological well-being.
+ You are more likely to show up from a place of kindness. It means you are more likely to offer help and in return you are likely to receive help and support.
+ One of the most difficult things to learn in life is to self-regulate our emotions. Empathy can help with that too. The ability to manage our emotions during times of stress, great discomfort or conflict will not only allow us to better relate to others but also feel healthier both physically and emotionally.
How to foster more empathy in your life?
Fortunately, empathy is a skill you can work on and build over time. A few ways you could get started today:
- Become an attentive listener. Don’t just listen to respond, instead try to understand and don’t interrupt when someone is speaking.
- Listen to different opinions even if you disagree with someone. Try understanding their point of view.
- Notice body language and other non-verbal cues.
- Try ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’. Ask questions to gain more perspective.
Empathy is definitely my super power and it has helped me connect with people on a lot deeper and meaningful level over the years. It has facilitated a degree of ‘richness’ to my experiences both in life and business and especially when traveling the world learning about other people and their cultures. How do you apply empathy in your life?