Are You a Natural with Empathy Or Still Learning?
By Sandy Schroeder
The dictionary definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Most people have a natural urge to help others. When they do, they often find it helps them, too. Empathy really can be a perfect circle.
One morning on the way to work, I saw a small dog run out into traffic. As he darted among the cars, everyone slowed way down. Finally one fellow pulled over and managed to catch the dog. I am sure that fellow helps people wherever he goes. He understands empathy. When a person or a pet needs help, he reaches out.
Recently, fastcompany.com talked about ways to become more empathetic. See what you think
Learn to actively listen - Many times we chat without really listening. Being an active listener means really focusing on what the other person is saying. When you do focus, you can respond to the other person’s feelings and views. The next time you talk with someone, skip the “hit and run” conversation, and really listen. When you do, you may find people open up to you and want to talk more.
Be open to the world. Be curious - I have a friend who is just naturally curious, which sometimes gets him into hot water, but also helps him reach out to all sorts of people. He finds out what makes them tick, and often succeeds in helping them. Look closer at the people around you, and find out more when you can. You may be amazed at the stories lurking just under the surface, at work, and in your neighborhood or community.
Leave your comfort zone - Life flows fairly comfortably in our daily grooves at work, or among friends, but what about all of the others out there? Make an effort to get to know people who are different than you. When we begin to understand people who are different than we are, their worlds may make more sense.
Step into someone else’s shoes - Some time ago, a local reporter spent a month on the street learning what it really means to be homeless. He left all of the normal trappings of his life and walked out on the street. He quickly learned what it was like to have no transportation, or hot showers and clean clothes, as he stood in line for food, and tried to find a safe place to sleep at night. At the end of the month he returned to his home, perhaps changed forever. To try this more safely, you might figure out what a person on welfare lives on and and give it a try for a week.
Wherever you are with empathy, keep going. We all need to make the circle bigger and stronger.
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