The world would fall apart completely if we didn’t care about each other.
Empathy comes down to our ability to understand and share the feelings of those around us. We need this altruistic quality to work together and create successful relationships.
While it may partly have to do with genetics it is also something we cultivate through conscious effort and practice.
That’s why some people seem like total rock stars when it comes to empathy.
Here are habits commonly found in people with exceptionally high levels of empathy…
1) They are good at managing their stress levels
At first this may seem like it has very little to do with empathy.
Goal research has shown that when we are very stressed, it can block our ability to empathize with others.
We get too caught up in our feelings to concern ourselves with anyone else.
If you’re anything like me, you can probably think of plenty of occasions when your anger or frustration has gotten in the way of you seeing someone else’s side.
Unfortunately, life can bring many irritations that make us excited.
That’s why having effective tools and methods to manage our stress can make a big difference.
Maybe it’s a meditation practice, breathing exercises, playing relaxing music, practicing mindfulness, improving positive self-talk, or one of many others. scientifically proven stress busters.
Chances are, if someone has a very high level of empathy, he or she can handle stress better than most people.
2) They listen on a deeper level
It sounds obvious when you say it:
To understand someone, we must be willing to listen to him or her.
As highlighted in Psychology today 96 percent of people think they are good listeners. But the research shows that people only remember about half of what others say.
This means that our listening often falls short without us even realizing it.
Active listening goes beyond just staying silent until it’s your turn to talk (something I suspect we’ve all been guilty of before!).
As the name suggests, it involves participating in a conversation, even when you are not the one speaking.
- Fully involved with the speaker
- Pay attention to their words, tone and body language
- Don’t interrupt
- Don’t judge (more on this soon!)
- Offering non-verbal cues to show you are listening, such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, etc.
When we see active listening taking place, it tells us something important:
That person shows a desire to understand the emotions and experiences of others.
3) They ask thoughtful questions
Curiosity helps stimulate empathy.
When we are genuinely interested in people, we want to get to know them better.
This desire alone is often enough to promote behavior that helps us do so, and we understand it better as we go.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of curiosity is asking a lot of questions.
Rather than assuming what someone thinks or how he or she feels, people with high levels of empathy tend to ask questions.
Their questions help bring the conversation back to the other person.
This is important because people with high empathy are not in the spotlight, as we will see next.
4) They don’t do everything they can
We’ve all had one-sided conversations.
The other person likes the sound of their own voice and has little interest in you. It’s all ‘Me, Me, Me’.
Empathy is about being able to relate to others. But the tricky part is doing this without turning things around and making it all about you again.
People who have good empathy can benefit from the experiences of others without taking over.
They make it a joint affair and therefore think more in terms of ‘we’ or ‘us’, instead of ‘I’ or ‘I’.
This means that even though they draw on their own emotions and experiences to understand someone else, they don’t automatically share their feelings or personal story.
They know when to keep their mouths shut and focus on the other person’s experiences. This requires a lot of awareness.
5) They are vulnerable enough to open up to their emotions
Strong emotional awareness is a real-life skill that helps in so many contexts, including empathy.
As author Sara Wachter-Boettcher astutely dots out:
“(Distance) definitely protects you from your own emotions. But it also makes it impossible to feel anyone else’s.”
We can’t respond to someone else’s feelings until we’re willing to get a handle on emotions in general, including our own.
The more we try to understand how we feel, the greater our emotional awareness becomes.
Emotional intelligence takes emotional awareness one step further. It allows us to get to know ourselves and others on a different level.
We become better at regulating the way we feel, but also better at recognizing our own emotions and those of others.
As we’ll see next, that often means reading the room.
6) They pay attention to silent signals
Communication is far from easy.
There is what we say and what we mean, and the two don’t always match.
Furthermore, many of the messages we send to each other are non-verbal.
Things like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language when someone speaks while painting an image.
Empathetic people are very alert to read between the lines. This means that they can more easily sense the moods of others.
Taking advantage of this, they can behave appropriately in social situations, instead of saying or doing the wrong thing.
They can reflect the energy they pick up and tailor their own behavior to what is needed at that moment.
7) They don’t judge others
First impressions often form in an instant, but they can last a lifetime.
It’s so tempting to judge other people. But when we do, we block our ability to empathize with them.
Developing a non-judgmental attitude requires that we ignore stereotypes and try to see the person underneath.
How can highly empathetic people do this?
- They strive to have an open mind
- They try to find common ground instead of focusing on our differences
They understand that everyone has their own unique experiences, beliefs and values, which shape their perspectives and behavior.
It’s not always easy, but empathetic people refrain from passing judgment or making assumptions about others.
Ultimately, they seek to understand rather than criticize.
8) They have the patience of a saint
Something remarkable happens when we accept that we are all human and that no one is infallible…
You will not only become less judgmental, but also more tolerant
People who have incredible patience tend to have high empathy.
They use their insight to cut people some slack or give them the benefit of the doubt.
This patience often means that highly empathetic people show more compassion for others when they are going through hard times.
9) They engage in random acts of kindness and supportive gestures
We’re talking about much more than reluctantly pleasing someone every now and then.
It’s about repeatedly showing thoughtfulness, compassion and kindness.
This can of course be expressed in different ways.
But it often means offering support, lending a helping hand, and showing acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
Let me give you an example.
My partner is the most empathetic person I know, and it means he constantly puts others before himself.
Yesterday he gave his friend one of our electric heaters because he was suffering from the winter cold in his apartment.
Although we needed it too, he felt his friend’s need was greater.
People with the highest levels of empathy also extend their compassion beyond their immediate environment as they strive to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
It is not just practical help, sometimes it is also emotional support.
They are happy to provide a shoulder to cry on, offer words of encouragement or provide much-needed advice.
Essentially, these gestures of kindness create a safe space for others to express themselves and seek help.
10) They work hard to see your side of things and seek new perspectives
The most empathetic people adopt different perspectives, which allows them to understand the viewpoints and experiences of others.
It’s a lot easier said than done.
It requires us to step outside our own frame of reference and try to see things from someone else’s point of view.
In other words, put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Practicing this is a powerful habit that often requires the use of your imagination, especially if you’ve never been in a certain situation before.
You know someone has a high level of empathy when he or she can always imagine themselves in someone else’s situation and imagine what that would feel like.
Our empathy levels can increase
Some of us may be born more empathetic, but it’s also a social skill.
This means that certain habits, like the ones we just outlined, can help us hone our empathy skills.
If we are more aware of things like active listening, striving not to judge and showing more kindness, we can create more empathy in our daily lives.
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