We are all familiar with the term “empathy”, but how do we actually be empathetic?
Most of you reading this would probably consider yourself an empathetic person. We would agree!
But, we rarely dive into the term empathy and explore what it truly means. Nor do we regularly consider how to put ourselves in an empathetic state of mind.
You’ve probably guessed by now that that is the topic of this article 😏.
Empathy vs. Sympathy
A common misconception is that when you are sympathetic to someone’s situation you are practicing empathy.
Sympathy is feeling sorrow or pity for someone’s circumstance or situation.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Both of these are important, but it is equally important to understand the difference.
Whereas sympathy is assessing someone’s situation and feeling bad for them, empathy is being able to see the situation through their eyes.
This allows you to develop a deep connection to them and creates a level of understanding that is otherwise lost in translation.
Developing this connection and understanding has benefits for everyone involved.
The Benefits of an Empathetic State of Mind
When we practice empathy, we are nurturing the important human need for connection and attachment.
The level of connection we develop through empathy has been proven to strengthen our overall health.
Another important component of empathy is emotional regulation.
This might seem counterintuitive because empathetic people often claim they are overwhelmed by the emotions they feel for other people.
However, it is through sympathy that we indulge in our own emotional responses to the situation of another.
On the other hand, a truly empathetic state-of-mind allows us to set aside our own emotions and focus explicitly on the feelings of another.
This strengthens our own emotional regulation which in turn lowers stress and improves our overall well-being.
How to Cultivate an Empathetic State of Mind
We understand what empathy is and how it can benefit us and others.
Now the question is how can we train our brains to be more empathetic?
Let’s break it down. Here are three things you need to improve to be more empathetic.
- Turning off your ego
Interestingly enough, these are three skills that are all strengthened by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the state of being completely present in the moment.
When you are present you are actually listening to the person you are attempting to show empathy towards.
In a mindful state, you are completely focused on what is happening in the moment.
When you are focused and listening intently, your ego fades into the background.
To sum it up, your ability to listen, focus, and turn off your ego is directly related to your ability to be empathetic.
You really can’t be empathetic unless you are also being mindful.
Just another reason why adopting a mindfulness practice is critical to leading a happy and healthy life.
We have a challenge specifically designed to help you become more mindful; check it out here.