Depending on where we are in our lives and what we have eperienced, having empathy may be difficult. You may be an empathetic person, but have fallen victim in certain situations and the experience has made you lose empathy for people, especially the ones like your attacker or bully. Here are some ways that we can foster more empathy as a society:
- Open yourself up to the idea that everyone’s experience is valid. Though you may not agree with the perspective that someone has adopted based on his or her own experience, it is indeed a valid one because it has occured and has made an impact on another human being. We often don’t care about people’s experiences until they affect us. As a society, we must stop this. Everyone matters.
- Learn to listen. Many of us let someone else speak but we aren’t listening and we are simply waiting in order to reply. Your answer may change and you may learn something new if you actually listen. Listening in any interaction is arguably the most important part of communication.
- Think like the person you are trying to understand, taking into consideration all that you know about the individual and what he or she has been through. If you don’t know, ask and if you can’t ask, create hypothetical situations in your mind to help you see where they are and who they are.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is difficult for many of us because we think about what we would and would not do instead of doing number 3, which is to think about who that person is and why he or she would have made the decisions or felt compelled to act in certain ways.
- Remind yourself that not everyone is like you. We forget this constantly and it makes it very difficult to understand why people would do what they would do because we compare it to how we think, how we handle ourselves and our own ideals about how everyone should be.
Having empathy is a blameless mindset. Many people have trouble doing it because we often want to access blame in a situation. Actions and reactions have ripple effects and are not solely about just the one who is responsible that we want to blame. Their actions and decisions come with a story and many issues, struggles and pains leading up to that moment. This does not mean that someone should not be held accountable for specific actions or decisions. It simply means that in trying to exercise empathy, in order to understand why, we have to remember that understanding and the reason why goes beyond what someone actually said and did in one instant.
We hope this article helps you to have more empathy, increase it or to learn what it is. Share with your friends and family as a reminder or tool to help someone else learn, too.