How to Be Empathetic
DONT MISS: 175 Quotes About Empathy (The Ultimate List)
Empathy is a very strong trait that is often mistaken for being weak. The quote “taking kindness for weakness” applies here for sure. But when it comes to how to be empathetic, you and I must do away with thinking empathy is a weak trait.
As I remember, being younger, I would avoid being empathic as much as I could! Maybe you relate to this?
Especially in intimate relationships where I was truly scared of connection. And getting hurt.
But we are really just hurting ourselves by not allowing ourselves to open up and experience the beauty that life altering experience like empathy can bring.
It builds layers of depth into our experience on this earth. Enriching our jouney
And if we choose to see it as a strength, rather a weakness, it also lets us build very strong relationships.
Once we see it as a strength and a great tool in our belt for ultimate connection, we can go about giving it. And the more we do so, the stronger our empathy gets.
At the end of the day, the definition of empathy is really just feeling what someone else is feeling. Not just verbalizing and intellectualizing what they are feeling. But truly “feeling their pain”, as it has been put by people. Stepping into one’s skin and becoming one with them through doing so.
Empathy is and always has been the best verbal and non-verbal communication and rapport building tool ever.
And below, I get into exactly how to be more empathetic, starting today.
Enjoy my friend.
How To Be Empathetic (31 Tips)
The eyes are the tell all. They are where emotion is shown through. They provide you with directions into one’s soul. People may be able to hide emotions with their body. But they can’t do so with their eyes.
They light up and sparkle when we are happy. They look empty when processing grief. And they look scheming when we are telling a joke!
You can truly learn to read and be empathetic by looking into ones eyes. It will tell you how they are truly feeling. As verbalization can give you hints to what someone is feeling. But at the end of the day, we need to see past the words, to learn what is really being communicated.
Also, when you look into someone’s eyes, you are showing them that they have your full attention. There is no other act of empathy more so than truly giving someone your undivided attention.
Empathy is not about verbalizing anything. It is usually about simply just “being there” for someone. And essentially letting them know you are there for them. Do you’re best not to provide answers or interject.
As when we are giving people our empathy, they just want to know that you are there for them.
It can be tempting though to try to make them feel better by saying the right thing. This is not needed here.
It is simply about truly being physically and emotionally present.
Validate Their Feelings
When it comes to being more empathetic, it is good to give someone COMPLETE freedom to feel. Whatever it is their are feeling, assure them that it is perfectly normal and OK.
If they are mad, accept them. If they are sad, let them be sad. If they are in grief, let them be in it.
This is a good time to verbally assure them that it is perfectly OK. That you are there to be with them through all the feelings they are going through.
And won’t leave until everything has been processed and they feel better
Mirror and Match Them
Above, we talked about being empathetic during a range of emotions one is feeling.
Here is where we want to match what they are feeling.
So say they are feeling super angry. Use your to emulate what they are feeling. Be frustrated with them.
Go through the range of emotions they are feeling with them. Ride the emotional roller coaster by simply experiencing their emotions with them.
If they say that they are “so pissed off”, simply state something like “that sounds SO frustrating”.
It can also be helpful to repeat their EXACT words too. So let’s say that they are saying that they “feel defeated”. They you say something like “I would feel defeated too”, or “I hear you, I’m sorry you feel defeated”.
This is a way to utilize words that are important to them. Which makes them feel more connected to you. And that you are truly listening.
Also, you want to pay attention to body language.
If they cross their legs, you do the same.
If they scratch their face, you do so.
Not right away, give some lag time. This will allow someone to again, feel deeply connected with you.
If they are closed off, and you do this, you can then open your own body back up later on. Giving them permission to do the same.
This will allow them to communicate more freely. And you will be able to connect deeper because of it. As you will be exposing the root emotions someone is experiencing.
Let Them Guide The Conversation
Empathy is not about directing the conversation a certain way on our parts. It is about letting the person “get it out”. Sit through the silence with them. Verbalize when you need to for mirroring their words.
Formulate What They Are Saying In Your Own Words
This is very powerful. To say something like “What I hear you saying is…”, and then form something in your own words about what they just said.
So for example, if the person you are giving empathy to says “I feel like I have no control over the situation”, you say:
“What I hear you saying is, that you feel out of control about what is going on”.
This will again, show someone that you are listening and that you are trying to “GET” them and how they are feeling.
Whatever the other person is saying, become the most curious person in the entire world. Give them your full attention. As if acting like a child learning the world.
Showing curiosity exhibits someone who has let go of their pride for the moment.
You are showing that you have no care about “knowing” what is going on with them. Or have been through it, and what they are going through is of little importance.
When you show curiosity, a person will open up more. Naturally. This will allow you to show empathetic support through empathy for a longer spectrum of the conversation.
When it comes to how to be more empathetic in a relationship, touch can be huge.
Simply putting your hand on theirs and clamping it.
Or resting your hand on their shoulder.
It can go a long way.
Touch is so crucial when it comes to empathetic connection. It can go so much further than simply “saying the right thing”.
Only 7 percent of connection comes through the words we say.
That leaves ALOT of room for empathy through non-verbal cues.
Again, match their style of touch too.
For example, if they hug you and pat you on the back twice while doing so, you do the exact same thing.
If they shake your hand, and put the other hand on top of it, you do the same thing.
You will subliminally tell this person that you are “like them”. That you are trying to adapt to their style.
Not forcing your own style on them.
Thank Them For Sharing
No matter how much, or how little the person shares, thank them.
Give them gratitude for sharing and being brave.
Tell them that it can be tough formulating and sharing emotions. And that you are incredibly thankful that they would give you the courtesy to enter their world.
Listen With Your Heart
Your heart knows all answers. Emotional intelligence starts and emanates form our hearts.
When being more empathetic, operate from your heart.
Try to leave your head behind when going into empathetic communication. Your heart will guide your through the conversation.
It will allow you to put feel what they are feeling faster than any other way.
Your head is where your ego is. If you stay there, you could get triggered by things. Especially if you are trying to be more empathetic is a relationship.
Stay in your heart the entire time. It will be much more efficient when giving empathy. It will also allow you to communicate so effectively that your relationship and bond will much stronger because of it.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
This goes without saying. Empathy is literally acting like you are that person. That you are going through what they are going through. That YOU don’t exist for a little while.
It is trying as hard as you can, to feel what it would be like if you were in their situation.
When you are doing this, you can then essentially better communicate what they might be feeling.
So is someone is in grief about losing someone, empathize off of that.
How would you feel if you lost someone close to you? What emotions would you be feeling. What would be going through your head.
Doing this will allow you to verbalize what feelings may be going on in the other persons body.
It will allow you to feel their pain. And help them to the other side of it.
Don’t Be Impatient
Human connection can take 3 seconds or 3 hours to form.
It isn’t something that we put on our to do list.
It is something that has to be formed organically.
So when giving someone empathy, don’t put a time table on it. You can even tell the person that you are in no rush. You are there for them and don’t plan on leaving.
This will let the person completely open up to you. Both verbally and emotionally.
It will create an environment of peaceful communication. As the person knows you are in it for the long haul.
You aren’t just treating them like something you have to get done. You are treating them like they are the most important person in the world. Showing ultimate respect.
You can even schedule time off for when you really need to show empathy.
So you are not thinking about the next place you have to be.
Listen To Your Intuition
Your gut will tell you all you need to know. It is very good at giving you what is needed when you need it.
When you are trying to be more empathetic, your gut will tell you when to talk and when not to.
It will also give you the right thing to say, at the right time. When something is needed to be said.
“Tell Me More”
The first part of trying to be empathetic will get very surface level responses.
In order to go deeper and try to really form emotional bonds and connections, we need to probe more.
Whatever they tell you, simply tell them to tell you more about that. Or say something like ” can you elaborate on that”?
This will allow you to get to the real root of what they are feeling. And then you can truly connect with empathy. As when you know what is really going on, then you can implore all the rest of the tips for how to be empathetic on our list.
Literally opening up your body and not being closed off. Also, open up emotionally. This is giving one the freedom to know that you are open to being vulnerable with them.
If you are like me, guys have a tough time with this. We think it is weak to show any sort of emotion. And yet in order to show empathy, we need to let go of this notion that it is weak.
We can connect deeply by showing and allowing our emotions to become full bore.
It allows for deep connection, doing away with superficialness of trying to hide emotions.
Tune Out Distractions
When showing someone empathy, it is best to not be distracted. Try to let go or push away thoughts about what you are doing after. Dinner plans, work related issues, letting the dog out of the house.
These things get in the way of being present with someone when trying to show empathy.
Also turn your phone off. Just knowing that it is off will allow you to be more present. As you won’t be tempted to see who is texting you. Or wonder what is going on in the world of social media.
This one has helped me a lot. And I know it can help you.
A great STUDY talks about how engaging in mediation is associated with changes in neural circuitry which is linked of being a central importance for the cultivation of empathy.
It also reduces central and peripheral stress responses. Which can help us both understand as well a identify mental states in people we are interacting with.
This ability to do this, heightens our ability to display and make empathy felt in other people.
A simple way to start meditating, if you don’t do so already, is to simply sit down and become mindful of what is going on around you.
Notice the sounds, how the seat feels on your back, the reflection of the light on the wall. This is the basic essence of mindful meditation.
You can also simply engage in mantra meditation. Where you say “OM” continuously. This will quiet your mind down, allowing you to engage in deeper and deeper meditation sessions.
Also, if you have any negative preconceived ideas to traditional mantras, that is all good. As you can simply meditate with words like LOVE or PEACE.
You just need to be anchoring yourself in the moment. Which can be done with any positive words or emotions.
Do Something With Them In Their World
We all have different things we personally like to do or engage in. Some people love to go to church. Other people like to lift weights or go running. Other people garden.
Figure out what the person you are trying to offer empathy to values. Then offer to do it with them once or even on a regular basis.
This allows you to step into their world. Feel their joys. Maybe dig deeper on other issues as well. As when people are in their element, they are more open to building deeper relationships. As they feel more comfortable. Hence sharing more.
This will give you more of a chance to become more empathetic. As you will have material to show empathy off of.
Treat People Like You Want To Be Treated
Here is an exercise that you and I can both use. When working on giving people empathy, try to act as if you are giving it to yourself.
How would you want to be treated in the same situation. If you were providing someone else with information, in hopes of receiving empathy.
Literally act like the other person is you. And treat them accordingly.
So let’s say that someone tells you about how their childhood was traumatic.
How would you want to be treated, if you were telling someone else about how your childhood was traumatic?
Then treat that person the SAME exact what as you would like to be treated.
Practice On Strangers
Let’s say that someone cuts you off in traffic. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that they are an a-hole, simply refrain from letting yourself default to that.
Instead simply think about what the person may be going through. Personally or professionally.
Maybe they are going through a divorce. Or were laid off at work. Or simply they are worried about a child not doing good at school.
Really anything that is opposite of your default mode.
Didn’t expect this one right?? Me either until doing research for this article!
A great article by Scientific American elaborates on a study about how fiction reading actually improves one’s capacity for empathy.
It works opposite of popular fiction, which popular fictional writing tends to be a little more outlandish and dramatic in it’s approach.
It takes one on more of a roller coaster ride through the emotional spectrum.
The material that allows us to build more empathy is literary fiction. This body of work places it’s focus more heavily on character psychology. Often depicted in a less detailed way, in which we are left and feel responsible for filling in gaps.
This forces us to more understand the characters motivations and intentions.
Essentially allowing us to walk a mile in their shoes. As he old adage goes.
It if forcing the reader to take a more imaginative approach to character dialogues. In a more introspective way.
Let Go Of Prejudices
A more all encompassing way to show empathy is to look at everyone as equal.
People who appear to be something outside the norm.
People of different races being more lowely. Or someone outside your country who may be linked to “terrorists”.
Just people people look a certain way, doesn’t mean they are.
People are individuals. Most of us are all doing our best. Including you and me.
If you can see this as a program that has been instilled in us, you can let it go. See people as being “humans”. Everyone is the same. Everyone is equal.
Challenge the way you see these biases.
That way, you can find the real reason you do so. And see how it is not supporting you giving empathy to other people.
Challenge what you know to be “true”.
Write Hand Written Letters
Anyone can text, call, email or DM. In today’s day and age, if you and I get a hand written note, it makes an impact.
Because at the end of the day, it is one of the most thoughtful gestures we can display today. It takes time to write a note, money to buy a stamp and thoughtfulness that goes into the note.
This is a game change for how to be empathetic my friend.
Help People Identify Their Feelings
Often times, honing in on what someone else is feeling is the entrance to the doors of empathy. It will allow you to truly connect. As a person will tell you the exact emotion that they are experiencing.
This way, you can essentially feel that exact emotion too.
Once you experience it, then you will know what they are experiencing. Plus in a verbal sense, you can revert back to that emotion. Naming it a few times throughout the conversation so that they know you are feeling what they are feeling. And are listening.
Don’t Let Your Story Overpower Theirs
At the end of the day, we all have been through a lot in this life. You and I both know this, am I right??
So when we are trying to show empathy, we can naturally relate our stories to theirs.
But this is where we need to draw the line. We need to focus on them, not ourselves.
The more we state how our situations in the past relate to theirs, the more we lose that connection that we are trying to create.
Just allow the person to be the main star in their story. Maybe later on, and that is a big maybe, you can weave your story into their timeline.
This can be done when the more painful emotions have left or lessened.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Questions that evoke a “Yes” or “No” will not lead you anywhere. They will not allow you to create a rich conversation to where the person feels as if they are safe to open up to you.
Avoid closed ended questions such as:
- Did that make you feel bad?
- Do you feel better about it now?
- Did it affect you?
- Was your day good?
- Are you over it?
- What time did that happen?
Instead ask questions that are open ended, like:
- What did you not like about that?
- How did that make you feel?
- What was going on in your head when that happen?
- What do you think your next step will be?
- How do you wish it could have played out?
- What was going on around you when that happen?
- What do you expect to change about this in the future.
A key note to focus on when asking questions that are open ended it to simply ask it in a way that evokes description. The more description the better.
When people respond to open ended questions like this, they are reliving things that happened to them. In which they are allowing themselves to become more intimate and vulnerable with you.
Thus you have then created an environment that fosters empathy. And trust.
Notice Empathy When You Are You Out
We want to really get our Reticular Activating System working with empathy. This is the area of the brain that seeks, out of all the data and stimuli, what our true hearts desires are.
That is why when you want a certain car, in a certain color, you start seeing it everywhere!
If we really want to lead an empathetic life, we need to start trying to spot it out in our experience.
Then once you do see it, praise it. Praise the person who is imploring empathy.
Whatever you bless in this life, it has to come back into your experience. What you give out, must come back.
Practice My Friend
You probably knew I was going to end with this one right?? We can only give as much as we have.
The more you fill your cup with empathy, the more you can pour out. The more you show it, the better you will get at giving it.
Plus it will become much more natural. And permeate through all of your actions in this life.
And because it is such a powerful emotion, it will cultivate so much more happiness and fulfillment into your existence.
Seeing yourself doing something over and over, does wonders for your life. If it is a good thing!
You subconscious mind doesn’t know how to differ reality from fantasy. And the more you imprint mental pictures on it, the more you will act this way subconsciously.
See yourself treating people with the utmost empathy and respect. Envision them reacting positively and enjoying your empathetic communication style.
I gaurantee, the more you do that, the more you will draw in experiences into your life where you can show empathy.
As well as know just the right thing to say or do when the moment arises to give empathy.
Show Empathy Once Per Day
Simply take one tip from this list, and do so each day. Give one person, one animal one thing empathy.
You can even start out with the list I created for us peeps looking to drop some empathy on the world, check it out here:
401 Random Acts of Kindness
77 Statements and Questions To Show More Empathy (Empathetic Statements)
- How are you feeling?
- Tell me more about what is going on?
- I am here for you.
- I am here for you no matter what.
- Whatever you are going through, we will get through it together.
- I feel your pain.
- You can tell me anything.
- I will never tell anyone what we talk about.
- Your secrets are always safe with me.
- I have your back.
- I accept you as you are.
- You can show me any emotion you are experiencing.
- I will never judge you.
- I want to connect deeper with you.
- I want to walk in your shoes.
- I want to build a better relationship with you.
- I want to rebuild our relationship.
- You have my heart forever.
- I will always love you.
- I hear you.
- I understand what you are saying.
- Tell me more about that.
- Tell me what is going on inside your head.
- If I was in your shoes, I would feel the same way.
- I wish I could take all of your pain away.
- Im here for you, even when I leave.
- Text or call me anytime of the day or night.
- I am always one call away.
- I am so proud of you.
- Lets just sit together and not say anything.
- We ride together, we die together.
- This too shall pass.
- You will get through this because you are so strong.
- You are the strongest person I know.
- My heart is heavy for you.
- Everything happens for a reason.
- Even when you are cry you are beautiful/handsome.
- I am so honored that you would share what you are feeling with me.
- You are so strong for sharing this with me.
- We will get through this together.
- What you are saying makes complete sense.
- Something is better for you right around the corner.
- This must be hard.
- I hate that this is happening to you.
- Let’s find a silver lining together.
- I would feel the exact same what if I was you.
- You are handling this so much better than I would.
- It makes perfect sense that you feel that way.
- I seriously can’t imagine what you are going through.
- God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers.
- Thank you so much for sharing.
- You are going to come out stronger and better than ever before after this.
- What has it been for you to go through this?
- How are you coping with this?
- You must feel so helpless
- Is there anything in the world I can be doing for you right now.
- I am always in your corner.
- I am here to listen to you anytime.
- You can talk as much or as little as you want.
- It is completely natural for you to feel this way.
- That must have really hurt your feelings.
- I wish I could do more for you.
- I would be “emotion” too.
- You are making complete sense right now.
- I truly wish you weren’t going through this.
- It hurts me to see you this away.
- I agree with what you are saying.
- Is there anything I can do for you today or any day for that matter.
- No wonder you are feeling “emotion.”
- Do you mind if I summarize what I hear you saying?
- You are completely right.
- What do you feel you will do next?
- You must really feel trapped!
- Whatever emotion you are feeling, I want to feel it with you.
- I will help you get to the finish line.
- You are a champion.
- I would have given up by now, you are stronger than me!
∂ƒConclusion to How To Become Empathetic
At the end of the day, giving empathy is the ultimate form of deep human connection. When it comes to how to be empathetic, now you have a myriad of ways to really show that you care.
That you are there for someone more than ever.
Stepping in their skin. Feeling their pain with them. Helping them get through what they are going through.
And ultimately having you come out with more life perspective. And building a deeper relationship with the other person.
I would love to hear your perspective on the subject of giving empathy. If you have any tips to add that you have found helpful.
Along with what your favorite tip from the list was.
Let’s chat in the comment section below!
Thank you for reading, I am grateful for you!