The world currently faces a human crisis–an empathy shortage.
When it comes to desirable traits among human beings, empathy takes a high ranking. The reason this emotion is so important is that it’s at the center of relationships as well as personal growth. This driving force gives you the ability to control, recognize, and use your emotions.
It plays a significant role in your emotional intelligence, and it allows you to resonate with other folks on how they think and feel. It’s a standard practice hardwired into many people, yet some lack it altogether. While people show many different emotions on the outside, most folks are all the same inside.
Everyone has insecurities and past regrets that drive them to be better people. Yet, there’s no person alive who couldn’t use more empathy. The more you have, the better your ability to make decisions, cultivate relationships, and resolve conflicts.
Think of empathy as a recycled piece of plastic. Once it’s put to the fire, it can be molded and shaped into anything it needs to be. This means that you can train and develop this skill, as your brain will physically alter itself to accommodate your new empathetic nature.
Ten Ways to Fix an Empathy Shortage
How are you in the empathetic department? It may benefit you to go through empathy training, where you learn to enhance your abilities. It can help you and those around you to hone this ability to share and recognize feelings. Here are some ways that you can increase this desirable nature.
1. Walk in Other’s Shoes
It’s so easy to pass judgment on others without fully understanding how they feel. For instance, Jan has lived with a debilitating health condition called lupus, which makes her tired and exhausted most days. When other coworkers ask her to go out for drinks after work, she must get home to recharge her batteries.
The people in the office think that Jan is just ignoring them and doesn’t like them, but they don’t understand her level of exhaustion. It’s a miracle that Jan can work at all. If they could only step into her shoes for just a minute, it would change their perspective.
Rather than being so hostile towards her and thinking she didn’t want to be with them, they should understand her medical condition. Most people judge things they cannot understand. So, the first way you can be more empathetic towards someone is to step in their shoes for just a minute, as it brings a whole new perspective to the situation.
2. Get Out and See The World Through Different Lenses
Everyone has a world around them that’s become their normal. For instance, the people in your city, job, and inner circle are your comfort zone. While you’re thankful for these folks and experiences, it’s doing nothing to broaden your horizons.
Joe became a local hospice organization volunteer to add more charitable acts to his life. It wasn’t until he received a patient of 28 years old with cancer that he realized how fragile life could be. This job changes his perspectives and teaches him a whole other level of kindness, as he learns how blessed he was and how these people that were suffering were victims of time and chance.
Sometimes stepping outside your realm of routine can be eye-opening, and you can discover a whole new reality that changes how you think and feel.
3. Examine How Your Bias Contributes to an Empathy Shortage
Everyone has preconceptions that come from their childhood and family. It’s a hidden bias that inhibits you from empathizing with folks. For instance, Jamie grew up in a small town called Jackson.
However, he heard his whole life that the folks from the neighboring town of Wellston were “rough,” and he should never go there or associate with them. Wellston was a poorer community, and folks often prejudged it. He looked down on people he had never met in his whole life only because they weren’t from a more affluent area, but it was what his elders told him.
Though he had never been there, he let his parents’ prejudice dictate how he saw others. When he met a girl in high school from this area that he liked, he learned that the discriminations he acquired were false. Opening your eyes and not allowing these hidden biases to interfere can enhance your abilities to listen and empathize with others.
4. Push Beyond Your Defined Borders
Everyone has a comfort zone that’s become their safe space. Maybe you take a sure way to work because it has less traffic. If someone were to ask you to take the freeway instead of the backroads, it would send your nerves into a tailspin.
However, to increase your kindness towards others and renew your optimism, why not try something new and out of the normal for you? What if you learned a foreign language, volunteered at the local hospital, or learned how to play a musical instrument? All these things will allow you to engage with people and push yourself beyond the level of comfort you’ve become accustomed to.
When you push beyond your borders, you’re opening yourself to new and exciting experiences.
5. Use Your Heart, Not Just Your Head
There are many times when you need to use your head rather than your heart. Consequently, when it comes to empathy, it’s just the opposite. If you’re buying a new home and trying to figure out how much you want to spend, it’s best to use your head.
However, when dealing with people and their problems, it’s best to think with your heart. Your heart can sympathize with others and see things quite differently. The Guardian cites a study conducted by the New School for Social Research in New York.
Under the direction of renowned psychologists, they uncover that diving into literary fiction can help to understand the minds of others. In fact, this tactic is used for young medical students to help them learn to be more compassionate when developing a bedside manner.
6. Nurture Your Sense of Curiosity
Each person you meet can give you a learning experience. For instance, a client who seems quite narrow-minded can teach you something about optimism and not giving up. A young colleague inexperienced with life and business can teach you that looking through a fresh perspective can change everything.
Each person in your life can help you learn something and become better at empathizing with others, as no one will think or feel the way you do.
7. Learn to Ask the Right Questions
When you have a conversation with someone, ask better questions to find out more about them. For instance, during a business dinner, prepare three or more questions that will be thoughtful and provoking to good conversation. Not only will it allow you to learn more about these people, but it will prevent any dragging discussions.
This tactic can be used on dates, business meetings, or social gatherings. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about others and how much you must be thankful for in life. Everyone has a story, and most are nothing that you presume.