These days it is easy to see people, groups and current events with a very hard perspective. The volume of information, opinion, fake news, and propaganda are at an all time high. People in this world are SHOUTING all the time! They deceive and hide their selfish intents and even blame others as a distraction. They don’t feel responsible for their actions. They are only contrite when held accountable by others.
This has lead to a collective fever running through us, driving us to our corners and apart from each other. These 6 tips are a guide to a person seeking to repair the damage that we see all arounds us and within our hearts.
Recognize when you’re not: It can be very easy to react without empathy to people, situations or events. Take a moment, ask yourself why am I reacting this way?
- People, especially in groups when you don’t identify as a member, are each unique and different from you.
- Situations where you are unsure about expectations can be challenging. Human’s immediate response is flight or flight. Are you anxious or nervous?
- At strange events do you make snap judgements? Are these based on historical biases, perceptions or even superficial attributes.
When you feel yourself judging people, take a step back and observe what’s causing you to feel that way?
Quietly Observe. After you recognize you’ve reacted without empathy.
- This is when it is best to open your eyes and ears. Watch and listen to what people do and say.
- Try to be a neutral observer. Try to imagine what lead up to this event? What are the people trying to achieve?
- When you contribute and give what you’ve seen and heard.
When you don’t know not much about a person or group, it is easy to be insulting, hurtful or contrary to what is acceptable. By observing and listening you can avoid losing even more empathy.
Put yourself in their shoes. This is difficult it requires knowledge and imagination.
- To walk a mile in someone’s shoes you have to know something about them. Unless this is a Star Trek movie - you already know one thing for sure, they are human! In fact, they are 99.999% the same as you! They have family; biological or chosen, they have needs, wants and desires; like you!
- Be curious about them, find out as much as you can about them. The easiest way to empathize with someone is to learn who they are. The best way to disarm a person is to talk about a topic they know, themselves.
- Lean what they care about; their family, their dreams, their favourite drink or vacation spot.
Finding out that they are like you allows you to see them not as alien, but as human, a person like you.
Find commonalities. It is very difficult to get along with a person if you don’t like them, and necessary to at least appreciate them.
- From the steps above, find something that you have in common to appreciate about them. Their style, their interests, their devotion.
- It might be as simple as the current circumstance, or feeling like an outsider, or plans for the weekend.
- It might be something like your desire for fairness, transparency or efficiency.
Whatever it is that you see in them that you appreciate, tell them. Explain what you value why it’s important to you, and ask them if they value the same things.
Be Honest. Once you have a toe-hold on empathy build on it.
- The easiest way to build on empathy is with the truth. Be honest about your feelings. How does this person, group, event makes you feel (focus on the good feelings and commonalities)
- Share your observations, and the commonalities you’ve found. Explain your understanding of their goals, needs and desires which match yours.
- Explain your desired outcome & ask if your understanding is correct
Being honest. Reveal your thought process, be transparent with your goals, invite their empathy. This builds trust and leads to greater understanding on both sides.
Be Trustworthy. Once you have established shared empathy and trust protect your hard work.
- Keep your word! When you make promises, do everything you can to keep your word. The easiest way to sabotage empathy and trust is to not deliver on a promise.
- If you can’t deliver, explain why. Giving the person a reason why you can’t deliver what you promised.
- Let them know that you are not happy that you could not live up to your word and explain what you will do to do better.
Being trusted requires that you be trustworthy. Trust is built on empathy. If you do and say things contrary to your word the foundation will atrophy and the house will soon follow.
A person without empathy sees alienness, otherness or fear. These feelings are a crack in our hearts which drains out empathy. The first step in being empathic is recognizing when you are not. Becoming quiet and observing; putting yourself in their shoes; find commonalities; be honest; be trustworthy.
I hope that these 6 tips will lead you to greater understanding. That you see this world differently and that fills you heart with empathy.