Mastering Emotional Intelligence. Part 1: Empathy
Exploring and increasing emotional intelligence not only makes us happier and more successful, but it helps us motivate ourselves, manage stress effectively, and resolve conflict with others. It gives us the skills to be able to encourage, comfort, discipline, and confront different kinds of people appropriately in various situations. It determines how effectively we express our emotions within the cultural contexts of our family, our workplace, and our community. Moreover, it determines how well people listen to us and how well we are heard.
I believe, everyone can profit from enhancing his or her emotional intelligence, because this important construct has a positive impact on human performance, leading to personal effectiveness and eventually to overall well-being. Emotional intelligence is a complicated thing, and in the series of further posts I would like to focus on in-depth description of key elements of emotional intelligence (independence, self-actualization, impulse control, etc.) and also share with you some easy and practical exercises, which I find impactful. Today let’s focus on one of the major competency of EQ – empathy.
Empathy is the ability to “understand, be aware of, be sensitive to, and vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another,” according to the famous Webster’s dictionary. The key to effectively applying this skill lies in learning how to give others accurate feedback on what they are feeling and why. In other words, empathy is the ability to “read” others by getting into resonance with them. The first step is to respectfully focus your attention on the person, seeking to truly listen and understand his or her actions and emotions. I usually ask myself the following questions: What are they feeling now? How strongly? Why do they feel that way? In order to exercise our empathic skills, we must be aware of the differences between ourselves and other people in terms of views and feelings. When we engage empathically, we are motivated to pay attention to other people. We attend to them by noticing their communications from multiple dimensions—by noticing what they are saying verbally as well as tonally and by noticing their non-verbal communications.
Practical tips to increase your empathy in daily life
1.Stay curious. Switching from judgment to curiosity is a crucial and the very first step to increase your empathy for others. Try to make a habit out of curiosity, switching from thinking we know what’s going on to genuinely wondering what’s really going on.
2.Learn to read body language. Attend to a person’s facial expressions, breathing, posture, and tonality; then match his or her physical state in your own body and see how it feels to you. This is an easy way of getting into resonance.
3.Ask someone how they are doing, then stop and really listen to them. A key factor in increasing our empathy includes forming an intention to pay attention to others. This calls for exercising our motivation to truly understand what is being expressed by those seeking to communicate with us, rather than projecting our interpretation of reality on them.
4.Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be a quick interaction as a part of a conversation or you can find a way to experience literally what is happening for the other person. You may put yourself in environments where people are from different backgrounds. For example, you might want to join a local community outreach group or volunteer in a charity shop. Immerse yourself in the diversity of others’ experiences.
5.Seek to understand the problems of others and the demands they face.
6.Inquire. If someone says something that seems way off to you, say, “That’s interesting, please tell me more.” This can help you correctly understand what the person is seeking to communicate.
These are my favorite exercises I find effective in learning to empathize and understand other people better. They cost nothing and require no preparation, however it can be personally challenging.
Try to implement these practical, research-based tips for how to increase your empathy and tell me what did work well and what probably did not. And next time I will come back with some tips on stress tolerance. We make the world a more compassionate place, one act at a time.