Empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions of another person. Empathic individuals don’t just feel sympathy or pity toward those in pain, they connect on a deeper, more intrinsic level, and actually feel the emotions the other person is experiencing along with them. Empathy is something humans naturally possess, but can also be something we can cultivate, nurture, and develop.
Here are three integral ways you can nurture empathy, both in yourself, and in those around you:
1. Engage in active listening: Active listening can do wonders to facilitate empathy. What is active listening? It’s the practice of paying attention to the words and ideas of others with more than just your ears. Instead of impatiently waiting your turn to speak, and using the time while others talk to plan what you’ll say next, try actively listening. Maintain eye contact with the speaker. Nod your head and smile to demonstrate your attention.
2. Don’t judge a book by its cover: One barrier we often encounter to empathy is judging others at face value, as opposed to actually getting to know them. Take the time to get to know people. Listen to their stories and relate to their experiences. The doorway to greater empathy will swing wide and you’ll most certainly benefit from its enriching effects.
3. Try to discover commonalities: You likely have more in common with others than you might think! If you’re having trouble connecting with someone, see what common ground you share. You won’t be able to find these commonalities unless you show an interest in the well-being of others. When we see something in others that we can relate to or connect with, it becomes much easier to display empathy.
P.S. Project Pneuma is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.