Empathy is a valuable skill to have that can enable you to be more successful in life. If you have ever come across an individual whom you would describe as a “people person”, chances are it’s because they have a high degree of empathy.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy refers to the ability to relate to another person’s feelings vicariously, as if one has experienced that feeling themselves. It can be joy, pain, loss and so on. It is like putting yourself into another person’s shoes.
Why Is Empathy Important?
Empathy is often referred to as emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to understand the emotions of others. Studies have shown that those with the highest performance ratings at work tend have the highest level of EI, or empathy, while those with the lowest ratings tend to have the lowest levels of EI.
That being the case, we can see that empathy can help us succeed not just in our personal relationships, but our business relationships as well.
Developing Your Empathy to Boost Your Success
There are a number of ways to develop your empathy.
1. Look for good role models
Consider all the people you deal with every day. Who seems to be more of a people person than others? What do they say and do that would indicate this? Look for examples of how they show empathy and start to emulate them.
2. Deal with your stress levels
Most of us are not at our best when we are stressed. We are focused on ourselves, not on others, which means we will be less than empathetic. Good self-care means space to care about others and practice empathy.
3. Be a cheerleader
Celebrate the successes of others. It will help people feel appreciated and play to their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
4. Avoid the blame game
Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t blame people or scapegoat them. Have the empathy to realize we all make mistakes.
5. Pay attention when people express their emotions
When a person expresses their emotions, they are usually looking for empathy. They might also just be blowing off steam and looking for a sympathetic ear. Pay attention to what is being said, but without trying to “solve the problem”. Listening will often be enough.
6. Watch out for body language
Researchers estimate that up to 75% of our communication occurs through non-verbal means, commonly referred to as body language, and through facial expression. Learning more about body language can tell you if there is a mismatch between what the person is saying and what their body language is telling you.
Also, be aware of your own body language, which can damage the impression of empathy if you are not careful. For example, turning away from someone may appear that you are not interested in what they have to say, even though you might actually be doing it because you are self-conscious about your breath after eating garlic bread at lunch.
When people don’t face each other, they tend to lose vital visual clues conveyed through facial expressions, which means neither of them are really connecting fully and getting the whole picture.
Giving our full attention to someone shows empathy because it indicates we value them and what they have to say.
7. Study online
There are many websites devoted to empathy and EI that can help you learn how to read people better. Take the quizzes available to see what your level of EI is. Follow the suggestions the quiz makes as to how you can improve.
8. Practice in real life
Once you have assessed your level of skill, create a checklist from the suggestions and practice doing them in real life.
Now that we’ve talked about what empathy is and how it can be useful in every aspect of life, take steps to develop empathy and see what a difference it can make to your success personally and professionally.