What are the 7 effective ways of cultivating empathy?

What are the effective ways of cultivating empathy

There are numerous studies on the benefits of empathy. Most of the conclusions hypothesize that people who practice empathy are a lot happier than those who don’t and tend to enjoy more quality relationships.

So why is it that some people lack empathy while others have it in abundance and, crucially, how do you develop empathy in a world that is vast becoming self-obsessed?

Cultivate empathy

Whether people agree or not, human beings are social predators. Inherently, we all have an essential requirement for being understood and for understanding others.

Other person’s feelings

The capacity to feel another person’s feelings is a superpower that enriches our lives and strengthens communities.

Studies show that when we see things from other people’s perspectives while staying true to our own feelings, this can help us to function more effectively and joyously alongside each other.

Perspective-taking

Developing empathy is not an exclusive quality or personality trait reserved for a specific type of person or group; empathy can get cultivated by anyone at any time.

Other person’s perspective

Perspective on empathy

We each can hold another person’s perspective while remaining authentic to our thoughts and beliefs.

There are numerous benefits to cultivating emotional intelligence and empathy, and honing in on other people’s perspectives and stepping into their shoes is just the beginning.

Empathic concern

Research shows countless examples of the scientific benefits of empathy alone.

These studies conclude that empathetic people have more satisfying relationships and perform better at work.

Mutual understanding in healthcare

Another crucial finding was that people who feel listened to and heard experience more positive mental health and that patients experience better health outcomes with empathetic physicians.

Encourage empathy

Some research suggests that empathy levels have decreased over the years.

One study conducted by the University of Michigan posited that from the years 1979 to 2009, students over that period had experienced a significant drop in empathy.

Emotional state

Researchers found that empathy levels had dropped by a colossal 40% throughout the study, with the most significant decrease occurring after 2000.

One explanation for the considerable drop in empathy is that media and violence have rippled through these generations, creating apathy and detachment regarding the suffering of others.

Key components

A lack of empathy impacts everyone. When people feel heard, they are likely to experience better mental and physical health outcomes than those who don’t.

Different backgrounds

Everyone has a different baseline of empathy, and there are countless variables as to why this is, family history, genetics, environmental factors, unique personality characteristics; the list is endless!

The point is, when we spend time bringing empathy into our daily lives and work to increase our empathy levels, we are likely to experience good relationships as a result.

Two-way street

The ability to sense another’s pain and actively listen to what they are saying instead of waiting for an opportunity to speak is a superpower that many of us could benefit from developing!

The ability to walk in others’ shoes takes courage and bravery since we may get confronted with feelings and emotions that are challenging and that may make us profoundly uncomfortable.

Setting an example

It is human nature to avoid complicated feelings and negative emotions. 

However, empathy is a two-way street, and if we hope to receive compassion and empathy from others in the future, we have first to set an example.

Empathy building strategies

Empathy building strategies

To cultivate empathy, you don’t have to be a trained psychologist or body language, expert.

To learn empathy, you do not need qualifications or develop these skills the same way as everyone else; empathy begins by showing up for someone in an authentic way that feels right to you.

Some strategies can help you do just that, such as:

  • Using encouraging facial expressions
  • Creating a safe space for respectful conversations
  • Insatiable curiosity in what the other person is saying
  • The ability to listen carefully
  • The ability to se

To cultivate empathy, you don’t have to be a trained psychologist or body language, expert.

To learn empathy, you do not need qualifications or develop these skills the same way as everyone else; empathy begins by showing up for someone in an authentic way that feels right to you.

Some strategies can help you do just that, such as:

  • Using encouraging facial expressions
  • Creating a safe space for respectful conversations
  • Insatiable curiosity in what the other person is saying
  • The ability to listen carefully
  • The ability to sense other people’s emotions

What are the 7 Effective ways of cultivating empathy?

What are the 7 effective ways of cultivating empathy

As well as the strategies mentioned above, there are other enhanced ways to cultivate empathy with the people in your life that will enable you to create a greater understanding with the people you encounter in your daily life.

These strategies include:

#1. Getting engrossed in fiction

A 2013 Netherlands study illustrated that people who let their minds wander in literary fiction and imaginative play are more empathetic.

The researchers found that when people engage in fictional narratives, it increases empathy levels and responses.

Narrative transportation theory

This phenomenon is called narrative transportation theory. 

Broadly, when people get engrossed in a fictional story, they are likely to experience a shift in behaviours, attitudes, and ideas that mirror fresh perspectives gained from the story.

Imagination muscles

Essentially, the more we use our imagination muscles, the stronger they become! Imagining ourselves in another person’s position (like we do when we read stories) can increase empathy.

#2. Challenging yourself more

Participating in a new hobby or learning new skills can be humbling experiences.

For example, learning a new language or playing an instrument can push you out of your comfort zone, allowing you to develop skills such as humility and listening further. Such skills are enablers to empathy.

#3. Ask for feedback

The ability to understand others begins with understanding ourselves.

Self-reflection

Self-reflection allows us to tap into others’ feelings more, giving us a greater chance at developing empathy.

Asking for feedback about your relationships, whether from friends, family members, career coaches, spouses or other people and listening to the feedback others give you is critical to becoming emotionally intelligent.

#4. Cultivating curiosity

Becoming curious about ourselves and the people around us helps develop empathy in many ways.

Ask questions

Why is that family member so narrow-minded? Why do I pull away when my partner discusses difficult emotions?

Curious people ask many questions about a person’s life and their own, leading to increased life satisfaction and empathy.

#5. Focus on the heart, not just the head

Understanding how it feels to live someone else’s life is critical to explore the emotions and thoughts behind the learning.

For example, physicians who explore relationships and emotions demonstrate more empathy with patients.

#6. Take a long hard look at your biases

We can all be judgmental to some degree. Even those who practice mindfulness and meditation struggle to manage internal biases at times.

Sometimes these biases get centred around visible factors such as age and gender differences. 

However, by examining your preferences, you are more likely to start conversations and develop friendships with people you never have before.

#7. Get out of your comfort zone

When we spend time with other people and allow them to talk while we listen or travel to far-out destinations such as a developing country, we inevitably learn more about different cultures, giving us a deeper appreciation for others.

Perhaps we find a new family of friends and hone in on our ability to resolve conflicts, all of which improve well-being.

Empathy

Random acts of kindness allow us to model empathy and compassion for others. You may decide to help out at the local homeless shelter or role play with friends about their feelings and emotions.

There are so many ways to understand the other person opposite us, and in doing so, we significantly improve our mental and emotional well-being.

Empathy is a two-way street. The science behind empathy in both clinical practice and everyday life are powerful forces with the ability to cultivate healing and change.

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If you want to learn to be more empathetic with yourself or in your relationships, contact one of our specialists today who can help.

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