We all know what it feels like to be hurt or angry, and sometimes we instinctively react by trying to protect ourselves. We close off our hearts and minds, and we become defensive. For empathy to exist, we need to open our hearts and let go of our defensiveness.
Here are six tips on how you can practice empathy in your daily life:
Put yourself in other people's shoes.
One of the best ways to practice empathy and build healthy relationships is to see things from other people's perspectives. This can be done by considering how they may feel in a given situation and what may be motivating their actions. When you can understand what someone is going through, it becomes easier to empathize with them.
Listen more than you speak.
Another way to practice empathy is by listening more than you speak. You should try to hear what someone is saying without interruption or distraction. When we take the time to listen to others truly, it shows that we care about them and are interested in hearing their point of view.
Pay attention to body language.
It's also important to pay attention to body language when practicing empathy. This is because our bodies can reveal much about our feelings, even when trying to hide them. By being aware of someone's body language, you can pick up on subtle cues to help you understand their feelings.
Some signals you can try paying attention to are:
Open and engaged:
- Focused attention
- Relaxed posture
Defensive and closes:
- Crossed arms and legs
- Tight facial muscles
- Furrowed brows
Present-moment awareness is the ability to be present in the moment without judgment. This means we're focused on the here and now, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Present-moment awareness is about noticing our own thoughts and feelings and being attentive to those of others. This can help us to be more understanding and compassionate towards others.
Present-moment awareness can be cultivated through, for example, meditation, mindfulness exercises, or yoga. Many resources are available to help you get started if you're interested in exploring this further, including the 29k app.
Avoid assuming you know what others are thinking or feeling.
Another way to practice empathy is by avoiding assuming that you know what others think or feel. This can be a difficult habit to break, but it's important to remember that we can never really know what's going on in someone else's mind. Instead of making assumptions, try to ask questions and listen openly to what the other person has to say. This will help you gain a better understanding of others' perspectives.
Try to understand different points of view.
In addition to considering how someone may feel, it's also important to understand our different viewpoints in life. This doesn't mean we have to agree with someone, but we can try to see things from their perspective. This may help us respond more thoughtfully and empathetically when interacting with them.
Be open-minded and non-judgmental.
When practicing empathy, try to keep an open mind and avoid judging both ourselves and others. Instead, try to listen openly and without preconceptions. Doing this will make you more likely to understand where someone is coming from – including yourself.
Navigate defensive reactions.
One main thing that gets in the way of empathy is defensive reactions. When we feel attacked or threatened, we tend to close off our hearts and minds and become less able to empathize. when that happens (and it will), just notice our own reactions, acknowledge them, and then try to shift perspective again, taking a more open stance.