I’m sharing with you this one thing has made the hugest difference in the quality of my communication: empathy. I’m going through what empathy is and how it is the number one thing to improve your communication too. I also have a 3-step strategy to increase empathy in your interactions plus a One Week Empathy Challenge to practice this skill.
What is empathy?
Empathy is understanding and sharing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another person from their point of view.
It is often confused with sympathy, but they are not the same thing. Sympathy involves feeling a sadness for the suffering of others. You may wish that they were better off, but you are less engaged with their actual emotions.
The main distinction is that with empathy, you imagine yourself as that other person in their particular situation. It is the difference of feeling for (sympathy) vs feeling with (empathy).
How to Increase Empathy in Conversations
1. Be Curious
First and foremost you have to make the time to spend with others. Then when you are engaged with them, ask a bunch of questions about their life. Show a concern for them by following up on things you’ve talked about in past conversations and different events going on in their life.
For inspiration and future reference, you can download my new Dynamic Dialogue conversation starters pack for free. It has over 40 fun and interesting prompts to create engaging connections with others.
2. Be a Listener
While another person is speaking, imagine yourself as if you were in their place. Less than 10% of what we communicate comes from words, so remember to pay attention to their nonverbal communication such as tone of voice and body language as well. This will allow you to really get a sense of their true feelings.
Then use the perception checking and paraphrasing skills from active listening to ensure that you are accurately understanding the messages the speaker intends. And of course, one of the most important aspects of effective listening is not interrupting.
3. Be Sensitive
Name the emotions the other person is feeling in order to validate them. Allow adequate time before you offer up your own feelings or advice. It’s usually best to refrain from giving someone in a crappy situation pat answers as well. I know for myself that if someone casually tells me “everything will work itself out” when I’m feeling upset or overwhelmed, it feels more like my experience and my feelings are being disqualified. Allow them to feel their emotions in a safe, nonjudgmental place.
Empathy is the number one thing to improve your communication. By boosting your empathy, your communication will become more open, honest, and connected. Empathy expands our perspectives and opens our mind to create increased understanding for others. This is especially helpful in conflict resolution and more generally fosters positivity in life and relationships.
One Week Empathy Challenge
Some people are naturally more empathetic than others, but the good news is that empathy is a skill anyone can learn. To practice your empathy skills, I created this One Week Empathy Challenge. Each day for seven days there is a simple exercise that will get you thinking in new ways about other people. This increased insight and awareness for other people’s viewpoints will build up that empathy muscle, and in turn improve your communication and increase positivity. Who’s in?
How do you think empathy will improve your communication?