Empathy is the “capacity to understand or share the feelings of another person – that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”
Recently – in many of the workshops that I have facilitated, empathy has been a frequent topic of discussion in the room. As a coach and counsellor, it has struck me that empathy is looking on the heart, to seek a deep understanding of the feelings of others. I’ll often ask myself “Where am I listening from?”
Elaine Walton observed – “Because of our unique set of personal experiences, we have been conditioned to look at people from different perspectives. We could all be looking at the same person. Some of us would see the background. Others would see the clothing the person is wearing. And some would notice the facial expression and imagine what the person might be thinking or feeling.”
I have come to understand that I cannot help another person, unless I can recognise how they feel. I have also learned that empathy is important for everyone, not just professional coaches like me. It is a vital ingredient for all positive interpersonal relationships. If we couldn’t at least imagine what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes, we wouldn’t be able to connect; we would live our lives in isolation.
Five tips for greater empathy –
1. Set aside your own point of view
2. Actively listen
3. Ask yourself – what would you do?
4. Serve others more often
5. Be non-judgemental
How can empathy help you build relationships?