When we see someone who is visibly upset or distraught, the typical reaction is to wonder what’s wrong. You might even feel a little sad or embarrassed for them, and it’s because you have empathy. Being able to feel and show compassion for others is crucial to your success in business and with your friends and family. Those who lack understanding may unintentionally put themselves before others too often or fail to pick up on physical and verbal cues of distress in others.
Show a Real Interest
When you’re inquiring about another person’s well-being, they must know you want to lend a listening ear. You’re not just doing it out of obligation or because you want the hairy details of someone else’s issues. Be attentive and respond with questions about them. How does that make you feel? How do you think you’ll handle this situation?
Sometimes we make the mistake of assuming people are asking for advice, and that’s not always the case. They need someone to listen and show interest. Empathy can earn you a lot of dedicated friends and allies in life as long as it’s genuine.
Share Your Own Experiences
Another way to practice empathy is to be relatable; there’s plenty of “no one understands what I’m going through” moments in life. We’ve all been there; we don’t feel like reaching out anymore because it honestly just seems like no one can actually relate. Even if your story or experience doesn’t exactly match up with theirs, I’m sure certain elements are similar.
Exposing your own failures and disappointments with someone else lets them know that they aren’t making a complete mess of their lives. They aren’t just lazy or bad at decision-making; this isn’t a permanent occurrence in their life. Seeing someone else get through it gives them hope for the future. Sharing your troubles can be an incredibly beneficial motivator for others.
Managers and those in leadership roles can provide an incentive to their subordinates; when you’re at a low point, it’s good to know the people above you have been there too.
Be a Little Softer
Society teaches us that we should have a “chin up, chest out” attitude at all times; we have to be tough and hide our vulnerability. When other individuals have a rough moment where they lose control of their emotions, responding with judgment is the worst possible reaction. When someone is feeling vulnerable, and that vulnerability is exposed, it can not only be hurtful, but downright humiliating when others don’t show empathy.
When you do speak up, try to soften your voice and use a kinder, more gentle tone than you would in regular conversation. Try to avoid cracking jokes or being humorous unless the discussion has come to an appropriate time for it. If you’re not used to having people bare it all to you, the situation can feel uncomfortable.
As a way to cope with it, we attempt to be funny and make people laugh. The fact that you want to cheer them up at all shows that you’re an empathetic person already! However, they may take it as you not understanding their situation or not caring at all. Just try to be present and give them time to say their piece.
Talking it out may not fix the problem, but it just feels good to get it off your chest so that you can go about your day with clarity and focus. If it’s been a few days or a few weeks since someone has reached out and expressed a need for an empathetic friend, check in on them. Ask them how everything turned out and let them know that if they ever want to blow off some steam, you’re available.
The follow up is a significant part of building relationships or building bridges. While it is definitely a two-way street, being able to give without expecting anything in return is the greatest thing you can offer to another person in need. This doesn’t always mean buying them something or giving away money. Sometimes it’s just a matter of sharing your time with another when they really need it.
Remember, not everyone out there has close ties with friends or family, and the only person that they have to turn to could very well be the people that they work with. So, do your best to be understanding and empathetic with others as you can be. There are plenty of other things to judge, like your work performance, your finances, and the productivity of your team. When it comes to offering compassion and empathy to others, do so freely and without expectations. You’re sure to earn their trust, respect, and loyalty later on.