3 Ways to Boost Your Empathy Levels
When you experience stress, your body focuses its resources to deal with the perceived threat at hand. Among other things, your muscles tense up. Your breathing speeds up. Your heart contracts harder and faster. Whether you are a man or woman, empathy is a dying art. Life is so loud and distracting it becomes harder to sense what is going on around us. The less we are aware in the moment, the harder it is to tune into other people’s feelings and intentions.
Empathy is critical to establishing healthy relationships and developing social and leadership skills. The good news is that even though we may be losing our ability to show empathy, we still have the capacity to empathize anytime we want to.
To increase your empathy, you have to both control your wandering mind and strengthen your capacity to empathize through practice. Here’s how:
- Be quiet, inside and out. The more you can quiet your chattering brain, the more you can hear your emotional wisdom. Meditation is a good practice. You can also tune in through stopping your activity and focusing on your breath. Keep your mind empty as long as you can as you look around you. Practice observing with a quiet mind in five-minute intervals.
- Fully watch as well as listen. Watch movies that tell stories full of both drama and humor. Getting absorbed in another’s life story strengthens the connections between your cognitive and emotional brain. This is better done in a theater where your phone is turned off. “…people take time out of their busy schedules and actively practice empathy each day. This means spending time each day in face-to-face, other-focused listening to others and imagining what they feel.” Commit to spending 30 minutes a day watching people in meetings or social settings where you don’t have to talk much.
- Test your instinct. If it is appropriate, when you are in conversation with someone else, tell the person what emotions you are experiencing. Ask them if there is anything that might be triggering these same emotions in them. Be patient with their response. It might take them a while before they can recognize their own emotional state. Then share with them what you think they might do next. Even if you are wrong, it will help them to begin to identify their own emotions and inclinations for action.
In truth, you are an excellent mind reader. You just need to pay attention and be willing to believe what you read. Boost your empathy to strengthen your relationships and improve your social skills.
Photo via deliciousmusings.com