Life in Another’s Shoes: How to Embrace Empathy

This week we have spoken quite a bit on the importance of empathy and embracing all walks of life. However, we have yet to speak about how to develop empathy.

Empathy is a crucial skill whether you are dealing with coworkers, employees, customers, or friends. It is what gives us the human connection person everyone craves. In fact, it could be the difference between a good leader and a great one.

Does empathy not come naturally to you? Here are a few ways to empathize with people in your life so you can better understand what they need.

Put Yourself Aside

A pivotal part of developing empathy is to put yourself aside.  Empathy is about putting another person’s feelings before your own. Don’t create something just because you think YOU would like it. Develop’ product because you think other people will enjoy it or find it useful. Look at some of the most successful inventors in history. They didn’t create things because they would get rich. They did it because it would make the lives of others easier.

Put Yourself in Other’s Shoes

Although it’s one of the easiest the concepts to understand, this step is one of the hardest practices in developing empathy. The best way to strengthen this skill, you need to READ and IMAGINE yourself as a completely different person. If you are middles aged, middle-class male business owner, read about a young boy risking his life to immigrate to America or the experience of a single mother struggling to make ends meet in the slums.

Ask Questions

One of the easiest ways to understand someone else’s perspective is to ask questions. Ask how someone would react to a situation or what kinds of struggles they experience every day. Not only will you learn more about how other people live and think, but you will also make that person feel heard.

Listen

The most important part of empathy is listening. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s opinion, listing to their story and ideas will help you understand them. Don’t talk. Don’t argue. Just take a moment to listen and comprehend what they are saying. Notice their body language. Open your heart to them as they are opening up to you. When they share their opinion, make sure they know you heard them. Validate their opinion. It might not be correct, but it is THEIR’S, and they are not going to let go of that thinking easily. All we can do is peacefully agree to disagree.