Have you ever had this happen? A friend gives you a call. She says she’s going through a tough time emotionally. You ask her what happened. She lays out her situation for you. Maybe she caused the problem herself, or it was out of her control.
Either way, you can really understand what she’s going through. You experienced something similar years ago. The emotions and feelings come rushing back and you absolutely understand her point of view.
If you’ve ever experienced this, and felt a strong urge to help that person, that’s empathy. It’s an emotional skill that not everyone has. It’s a beautiful way to make the world a better place. It creates a more social planet. Then there are the positive feelings you get from helping someone in need.
If you would like to improve your empathy skills, here are four exercises that can help you do exactly that. They’ll let you experience the many benefits of empathy, while also helping those people you care about.
1 – Work through a “What If” Scenario
For this exercise, you want to recall a specific time you struggled with some negative emotions. What caused those feelings? Remember the situation. Then ask yourself, “What if a friend came to me with the same problem?”
Ask any professional athlete and they’ll tell you that practice is important. The same is true of world class musicians. Actors and politicians practice their scripts and speeches several times. After all, there’s an old saying that tells us practice makes perfect.
What you’re doing is practicing a potential situation before it pops up. You might be surprised to find that what you did for yourself when you experienced the situation is different than how you would react for a friend. This could point out that you need to give your friend or yourself more empathy the next time it’s needed.
2 – When You’re Stressed Out, Give
You can improve your empathy radar by giving when you need to get. At some point during your day you might be stressed out. You feel like you have no physical energy. Sometimes when this happens you should give something of value to someone else.
Being stressed and worn out makes you think about yourself. You turn inside. This is a great time to offer your time, money or energy to someone else in a needy position. It could be as simple as shooting a text message to one of your friends who’s going through a hard time. It doesn’t need to be a huge gesture.
Getting better at empathy is about doing lots of small things, especially when you’re dragging because of a hard day.
3 – Don’t Just Click … Connect
The Internet and World Wide Web allow for instant access. We jump on our phones all the time. The next time you do, connect with someone. Make a real connection.
Don’t just hop online and start clicking, surfing and viewing videos. Talk with someone. Get inside their brain. Ask them how their day’s going. Pay them a compliment. The next time you go online promise yourself you’re going to connect with someone emotionally.
4 – Start Looking for Empathy in Others
Do you know what empathy looks like? I’m sure you do. Start praising other people when they display empathy. You make the world a better place because you’re reinforcing positive behavior. Additionally, you subconsciously tell yourself that practicing empathy is a good thing. That means you’re more likely to respond with empathy when it’s required in the future.
The fact that you want to be more empathetic is a great sign. It means you’re emotionally healthy. It also means you want to make the world a better place by helping others when you see they need assistance.