the difference between empathy and sympathy

Sympathy vs. Empathy (and how knowing the difference could save your relationships) Part Four

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Last week we began examining the seven steps to fostering more empathy, including learning to better identify our own feelings and treating others as they would like to be treated. This week we conclude the series by looking at the last three steps to increasing our empathy, including being more curious and challenging prejudices and finding common ground.

 

Cultivate curiosity

 

When we were little children we were all naturally curious but later in life this curiosity tends to fade. Remember that little child in you and do your best to remain curious and open. Ask people questions and learn about their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings. Seek to understand viewpoints different to your own.

 

Active listening and being open

 

Active listening is when we really focus on listening to others. It involves reading body language, mirroring body language and repeating what the other has said so they feel heard and understood – this approach also gives others the opportunity to correct you if they meant something different to what you thought.

 

Be open and share your own story with others. Let yourself be vulnerable. It will make the person you’re speaking to feel safe in sharing with you in turn.

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Sympathy vs. Empathy (and how knowing the difference could save your relationships) Part Three

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock

 

Last week we looked at the many life-enhancing benefits of empathy and learnt the ‘enemies of empathy’ and how to overcome them. This week we begin examining the seven steps to fostering more empathy, including learning to better identify our own feelings and treating others as they would like to be treated.

 

The seven steps to foster more empathy

 

Learn to better identify your own feelings

 

One of the key elements in becoming more empathic with others is to be able to read their emotions. This is virtually impossible without first learning to effectively identify our own emotions. The good news is that with just a little practice we can all become better at reading our own emotions.

 

All you need do is begin to notice when you are feeling an emotion and your awareness of your emotions will increase. The next step is to understand your emotions. You can do this by first thinking about what triggered your emotions (like an event) and then asking yourself why you are feeling the emotions that you are.

 

For example, if I notice that I am feeling anxious the trigger might be that I am meeting new people and the reason why might be that I don’t yet know whether our meeting will go well. Of course you can always delve deeper, for instance the core reason why I am anxious as to whether the meeting will go well or not is probably exasperated by the fact that when I met new people at school it didn’t go well.

 

Read literature

 

Reading literature is incredibly effective at allowing us to better understand others different perspectives and emotions. So read as much as you can and as wide a range of literature as possible to fast-track developing greater levels of empathy.

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