Have you ever gone to work and noticed a coworker had been acting different towards you and your other coworkers? Perhaps there was a time when a friend of yours felt like you didn’t understand nonverbal cues that they were trying to communicate to you? How aware are you when these situations arise and how can you respond in a way that shows compassion?
The fact of the matter is, these situations are unavoidable. There are millions of people in the world, each with their own unique personalities. Through these differences, we somehow need to be able to work together within our personal lives, our communities, and the workplace. It is for this reason that we need to learn the importance of being able to understand others.
The key to understanding others lies in our ability to practice empathy. In short, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others through your own observation and listening skills. To some people empathy comes naturally. Others may need to practice empathy on a daily basis.
Empathy is important because it reduces the distance between us and others. It makes us feel more socially connected to each other and fosters emotional bonding between people. Practicing empathy in your daily life can make you a better parent, family member, friend, coworker, or leader.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you need to practice empathy, consider taking the following approach: First, try looking at the situation from that person’s perspective to better understand how he or she might feel. Asking questions is a great way to get an idea of what may be happening in that person’s life. After you ask questions, try to focus on listening carefully to what is being said so that you can respond thoughtfully. When you have gathered enough information, try to evaluate how that person is feeling and be sure to remove your own personal feelings from the conversation. Once you understand the way that person is feeling, recall a time when you felt similarly so you can react empathically. There are also instances when nonverbal communication, which can be defined as a person’s actions over their words, will let you know when it’s time to use your empathic skills.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, remember that trying to react empathetically is important when it comes to understanding another person’s point of view. We all come from different backgrounds and have taken different paths in our lives. Shedding your own perceptions and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes may open your eyes to what they originally did not see.