Empathy is a key aspect of interpersonal relationships. Emotional empathy – whether low or high – powerfully affects either way each and every of your interpersonal relationships.
What is Empathy?
Are you good at “emotionally reading” others? Can you easily put yourself in some one else’s shoes?
Empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate how others feel. It is a skill that allows you to see the situation from another person’s perspective. Empathy skills generally lead you to be sensitive, aware and appreciative of other people and their feelings.
What It Is Not
Empathy has nothing to do with being “nice” to others, nor it is about avoiding conflicts or holding back the truth when it may hurt. It is also not about being too concerned about others, nor denying one’s own feelings.
If You Have It
Having a good level of empathy means that you’re paying a healthy amount of attention to other’s emotions and needs. You pick up quickly on social cues and you anticipate other’s reactions. Being sensitive to others feelings helps you develop and solidify your interpersonal relationships.
If You Don’t
If your level of empathy is on the low side you may have difficulty relating to others and understanding how they feel. This in turn may cause you to be occasionally surprised by other’s reactions or to misread social cues.
Empathy has many benefits. It is a very powerful interpersonal tool. When people feel that you’re “in tune” with them they feel validated. This strengthens your emotional bond and the chances that the other person is going to work with you rather than against you. It improves collaboration even in interchanges that are tense. Here are a couple of exercises that you can do to develop your empathy skills.
- Explore your personality, communication and problem solving style with a personal style assessment such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Understanding your own style and preferences is the best way to start to understand how others may be different in their way to think, behave and communicate.
I regularly use the MBTI with my coaching clients and a 1-hours session will walk you through your assessment and give you a wealth of information about your own preferences and differences with others.
- To practice empathy, talk to people you know and ask them how they felt about specific situations and compare your own assessments and assumptions about their feelings.
What are the differences? Are there certain situations that you read better than others? Or certain people that you read better than others? Taking note of these differences will help you understand others better and expand your empathy.