Practicing Empathy: Why It's More Important Than Ever
Defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of each other,” empathy is a vital skill that allows us to relate to others in a way that makes them feel understood. And while some people are born with a greater sense of empathy than others, research has found that it's a tool we can actually cultivate in our everyday lives. The benefits are extensive and range from reducing stress to creating social change. By fostering this important skill, we can become more effective in the office and beyond.
In the Workplace
We’re all navigating an incredibly complicated period in history, and there’s no better time to foster empathy as a skill. This applies more than ever in the workplace, where compassionate leadership should prevail. There’s even significant science to back this up: research has shown that practicing empathy makes us better leaders, managers and employees. As we slowly return to the traditional workplace, there are plenty of empathetic practices that professionals can employ in the office. Checking in with your teammates and being considerate with their time is a great way to create an open environment that thrives on communication. Also, understanding that we all come from different backgrounds and deal with everyday issues in different ways is a great skill to emphasize. Some of us also need a reminder to treat ourselves with kindness. Whether it's taking a break to grab a coffee or using five minutes to meditate during the workday, practicing compassion with yourself demonstrates the importance of empathy to those around you.
Empathy at Home
While practicing empathy in the workplace is vital, so is actively creating an empathetic environment at home and in our personal lives. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s always easy, especially when it comes to the people with whom you spend a significant amount of time. One of the best methods of employing empathy is by actively listening to those around us. Are people coming to you to share their feelings? Do you welcome the existence of diverse emotions in your presence? By letting people know that they’re safe to express their feelings and opinions around you, you’ve already removed one of the biggest barriers to an empathetic existence.
What More Empathy Could Do
In a world that feels more divided than ever, an increased sense of empathy could help bridge those deep chasms of differences between us. Whether it’s based on racial or socioeconomic biases, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes helps us to understand that beneath all the differences on the surface, we’re all just people doing the best we can to get along in a challenging time. Human nature is universal, and if we actively try, we can embrace our natural desire to connect with others.