Empathy is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. It helps you in your personal relationships, your job, and pretty much everywhere else. If we all had more empathy, it would reduce crime, poverty, corruption, and war, just to name a few.
Regardless of your current level of empathy, you can improve it. A more thorough breakdown is explored in the video above, but if you aren’t the video type, here are some basic steps to improve your empathy:
1. Expand your horizons – Learn new skills or hobbies. Developing new talents will help you appreciate others and expose you to different people and perspectives. It also tends to be a humbling experience since you generally start out being pretty terrible at whatever you’re learning. Another way to expand your horizons is to travel. Experiencing different cultures helps you understand that your way isn’t the only way to do things. Whole countries have completely different worldviews, and the very things you consider standard are exceptionally strange to them. This mindset makes it easier to avoid judging people, and teaches us to respect opinions that disagree with our own.
2. Reign in your emotions – Our knee-jerk reactions are often selfish and judgemental. Instead of making snap judgements, ask yourself questions to try to understand other people’s behaviors. Odds are they have a valid reason for doing what they’re doing.
3. Make a case for those that disagree with you – This is especially relevant in politics, but it can apply to all aspects of life. Instead of assuming that everyone on the “other side” is stupid or evil, try to understand their worldview. Ask yourself “what situation could I come up with where I might agree with them”. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with them, you should be able to end up in a place where you can say “I see where they’re coming from”.
Learning and building empathy is a lifelong pursuit. But the better you get at it, the more you will see the benefits in your lives. Stronger relationships, less conflict, and greater personal peace will flourish in your life as you make improving your empathy skills a priority.