Empathy means the ability to understand a person’s point of view or his reason for thinking in a certain way. It is not limited to what others think only but also, it refers to the ability to identify the feelings of people.
In much simpler terms, empathy refers to the ability of a person to put himself in the shoes of another so that he feels what that person feels or understands his actions.
Naturally, some people are more empathetic than others. It is an obvious fact that women have a higher degree of empathy than men. But whether you are naturally empathetic or not, it is a skill which can be developed.
Importance of empathy
No matter the kind of profession or job you do, empathy is absolutely important and you should possess this skill. Some of the reasons include:
- It fosters good relationships between you and your colleagues. At times, the attitude of a colleague may be absolutely annoying or senseless. Until you understand why he acts like that, you will always have a problem with him – You may accuse him of being weird or a misfit. However, once you know, feel, and understand how he feels, your attitude towards him will change. This helps build healthy relationships among colleagues.
- It improves trustworthiness. When you show people attention and care, they develop affection for you – they begin to believe they can trust you with their issues.
- A leader who has empathic skills affects his subordinates with a sense of belongingness. This fosters unity within the organization.
- Possessing empathic skills will make you a great team player.
How to improve on the skill of empathy
Below are few tips that will help you improve upon your empathic skills.
- Read and acquire knowledge. Reading resourceful documents about the nature and various attitudes of people equips you with sufficient knowledge about human characters and behaviors. Some books contain very helpful information and with such knowledge, it is easier for you to identify and understand the various characters and attitudes of people.
- Be a listener. Do not be quick to pass judgments. Draw closer to people and engage them in conversations. Ask them about why they do some of the things they do. While they speak, listen attentively. Active listening is key to understanding the person’s point of view and the reasons for his conduct. Frequent interruptions from you, while he speaks, may cause him to omit some vital information.
- Be friendly and open up. The surest way to make people trust you is by sharing yourself with them. As you speak about yourself and your experiences with a person, he also begins to share his experiences, challenges and grievances etc. with you. As he shares such information with you, you get to understand him better than you used to.
- Put yourself in people’s shoes. Ask yourself; if this should have happened to me, what would I have done? Putting yourself in the shoes of others helps you better appreciate the elements of the situation – you get to have a realistic taste of how they feel.