5 Ways to Increase Empathy


5 Ways to Increase Empathy

Empathy is one of the critical components of building emotional intelligence. Through empathy, you will be able to connect with others, understand their perspectives, improve communication, and avoid conflict. Below are the 5 ways I like to build empathy in my clients. Before we discuss how to build empathy, allow me to make sure you know the difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling for someone such as feelings of pity. Empathy is your ability to recognize and understand emotions. 

Active listening

Active listening is an important part of using empathy. First, let me explain how active listening really works. Active listening means there is nothing else going on in your head. No thinking about lunch, thinking about your response, wondering if you locked the front door. Active listening means 100% of your focus is on taking the other person in. 

When you actively listen to another person, you notice more details as they speak. You can pick up on their pacing, their non-verbal cues, and most of all their emotion. Learning to actively listen is more difficult than you think. It takes a lot of self-control to not think about anything as someone is talking. This is a skill that took me many hours to master and it is a skill I rely on in my private practice. 

Use the emotion wheel

An emotional wheel is a tool I have used both for building my empathy and for helping others build emotional intelligence. When you have not fully developed your emotional intelligence, it can be difficult to name the emotion of another person during a conversation. I had to study and utilize the emotion wheel during and after practicing my clinical skills during my graduate program. It is an extremely simple yet useful tool to help build empathy. 

Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111

Walk-in their shoes

This one may sound simple but it takes active thought to remember to walk in another person’s shoes. This was something I did during my graduate program while watching recordings of other therapists giving therapy. We would pause the video after the client had made a statement about their lives and we were tasked with seeing the world through their eyes. We would then use the emotion wheel to name the emotions the client was experiencing. I developed empathy by going through this process with people in my everyday life. 

Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111

Use emotional language

What I mean by using emotional language is to actually name the emotion.  Men in particular struggle with this one in American culture. We have a habit as people to speak in generalized terms and definitions. Often, we talk without being specific and this is double for our emotions. If the person you are talking to is not naming the emotion, name it for them. This is a skill I learned to develop as a therapist and have spent many hours building this skill. The result is often the other person feeling understood and acknowledged. This will cause them to like you and want to speak to you more. The more you use emotional language, the more you build your empathy.

Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111

Spend time alone

By nature, we are gregarious creatures. Rarely do we actively spend time alone. It is more of a byproduct of our environment. Such as being alone in the car as we commute to and from work. Sitting in a cubicle alone or waiting for public transportation. Spending time alone allows you to focus on yourself. This will often elicit an emotional trigger. By allowing yourself to feel your emotions you can become not only more aware of yourself but also allow you to gain experience in being cognitively aware of your thoughts and feelings. Spending time alone and allowing yourself to feel your emotions will build empathy with yourself.

Learn more about Emotional Intelligence here

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