What is Empathy?

Empathy is the idea of stepping into the shoes of another person and what they’re going through. Just like the famous saying, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Removing your barriers and letting go to fully understand what it’s like in the life of another. What a world it would be in if we did more of that.

But that leaves a few questions…

How can we grow with empathy?

First and foremost, start by increasing your self-awareness. This lets you sense others more accurately and really seek to understand them. If we aren’t all together ourselves, we can’t branch out to recognize the issues that someone else may be dealing with.

As a leader, increasing your awareness is also critical to improving your empathy and compassion. Having awareness on a personal level may be important, but an organizational awareness of what’s happening in all the different facets from the organization’s top to the bottom is just as crucial. Begin by getting in touch with your inner control and learn to harness it in a way where you can change the way you think. Then, be committed to meeting someone step by step on the path of their journey and truly sink into their shoes.

Your journey will begin by committing to do something about anything you see, hear, or the inconvenient truths you might uncover. By increasing your interaction with your employees, it becomes much easier to gather a sense of how they’re feeling and understand their sentiment in a way that cannot be conveyed in digital communication.

How Do I do This ‘Seeking to Understand’ Thing?

The beginning stages of empathy and seeking to understand someone may come with a lot of uncertainty. What if you don’t have the same experiences? What if there is no commonality in your backgrounds? Although relating to someone on a similar level does make it easier to empathize, those pieces are less important in the bigger picture. Andrew Sobel does a great job listing “Eight Ways to Improve Your Empathy.” 

1. Challenge yourself

2. Get out of your usual environment

3. Get feedback

4. Explore the heart not just the head

5. Walk in others’ shoes

6. Examine your biases

7. Cultivate your sense of curiosity

8. Ask better questions

Those are just put simply. Furthermore, you must allow yourself to fully empty out and become a blank slate. That’s the key to fully immersing yourself in understanding. Remove your mask, remove your filter, and lastly, remove your background and step fully and wholly into theirs.

How Can I Dive into Empathy?

Let go of yourself a bit. This may be much easier said than done. But, it can certainly be accomplished. You just have to be open to it. Empathizing with another person is something that can’t be forced. You have to WANT to relate to them on that compassionate level.

So, how can you begin to do that? Release your need to control the situation and interact with them in their space. You’ll be able to exercise that compassion and engage with them, so you can begin to brainstorm together.

Empathy is a radical power. Some people are indeed more empathetic naturally, but if we have the desire, we can work towards it. So let’s work together to release the magical power of empathy into the world. Wouldn’t that be great?