Empathy is the foundation of all relationships. And to create meaningful, long-lasting relationships, cultivating empathy is a must because the absence of it prevents people from connecting with one another.
Though it’s our natural ability, empathy can be challenging to demonstrate in some situations. Find out what it means to be empathic and what it takes to practice it more.
- What Is Empathy?
- Why Is Empathy Important?
- The Main Benefits of Showing Empathy
- 7 Examples of Empathetic Behavior
- The Different Types of Empathy
- Empathy vs. Sympathy: What’s the Difference?
- 8 Tips on How to Show Empathy
This ability is a powerful tool. When you can tune into other people’s feelings and experiences, it expands your perspective on life and opens your heart to serve others.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy is one’s ability to tune into the feelings, emotions, and experiences of another person. It can also involve compassion, sympathy, and a desire to help.
From the energy perspective, according to Jeffrey Allen, energy healer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Duality Quest, empathy is a skill of matching and merging with the sea of energy around us. “Other people are like tuning forks that attune to your song and match its vibration. This is what empathy is,” he explains.
This ability is an essential part of emotional intelligence, paramount for establishing and cultivating interpersonal relationships. It’s the most powerful form of connection we can have with another human being, according to Sadhguru, spiritual teacher and trainer of Mindvalley’s A Yogi’s Guide to Joy.
It’s also a cornerstone of the collective sense of unity. This is why the lack of it can cause all kinds of conflicts, both interpersonal and international.
Why Is Empathy Important?
We are social beings, which means that we are wired to be connected to one another. According to a large number of scientific research, social connections contribute to overall happiness and well-being.
To establish and maintain strong and deep bonds with people, cultivate empathy. When you can resonate with another fellow human, animals, nature, and the planet as a whole, you can live your life open-heartedly, with fewer judgments and more compassion.
And compassion, in turn, supports a more peaceful and harmonious world.
The Main Benefits of Showing Empathy
One of the most significant benefits of showing empathy is stronger relationships and more effective communication. Apart from that, empathy can also lead to:
- More effective problem-solving. It allows you to see things from another person’s point of view, which can lead to greater understanding and fewer conflicts. As a result, you solve problems more effectively.
- Increased compassion and altruism. It promotes compassion and deepens a desire to help others, leading to a more kind and caring society.
- Decrease in stress and anxiety. When you attune to another person’s experience, it helps you regulate your emotions. And if you suffer from social anxiety or feel socially awkward, it reduces the stress and anxiety in your interactions with others.
- Trust and cooperation. This ability is essential for understanding others. Most importantly, when you practice empathy in your relationships, it fosters trust and demolishes any competition.
Showing empathy can also aid in negotiation and mediation, as it allows you to understand the needs and concerns of the parties involved.
7 Examples of Empathetic Behavior
Showing empathy is our natural ability, and we practice it with people around us when we want to emotionally support them. Also, some social roles and professional occupations such as coaches, doctors, and teachers require being empathetic as their fundamental skill.
Here are some empathy examples:
- A friend who deeply listens and emotionally supports you when you are going through a difficult time, such as healing from a breakup.
- A team member who sees and understands your challenges and offers to help with a project you’re struggling with.
- A life coach who shows genuine understanding towards a coachee who’s facing difficulties in life, without judgment, and is fully present with their emotions.
- A conscious parent who engages with their child with zero expectations. In fact, empathy is one of the most important parenting skills to raise conscious children.
- A teacher who provides additional support and guidance to struggling students because they are able to relate to their challenges.
- A volunteer who understands the needs and challenges of the less fortunate community and offers help.
- A customer service worker who is able to understand the frustration and dissatisfaction of a customer and works to find a solution to their problem, rather than following formal procedures.
There are many situations in which you can show empathy. If you are someone who lacks empathy, you can always make a conscious effort to relate to another person and connect to their experience.
The Different Types of Empathy
Empathy is more complex than it might initially seem. There are three different types of empathy and each type comes with its own distinct characteristics and empathy symptoms:
1. Cognitive empathy
An empathic response usually starts with cognitive empathy. It is the capacity to rationally understand a person’s feelings and thoughts.
For example, cognitive empathy might give you an upper hand in negotiation and conflict management because you know what the other party wants. It includes reading between the lines and picking up non-verbal cues.
2. Affective empathy
Affective empathy, also known as emotional empathy, implies your ability to experience the feelings of other people. When you feel the same pain, anxiety, or joy, it allows you to nurture a stronger emotional connection with the people around you.
With this type, it’s important to mention that it can serve as a double-edged sword. If you can’t release what’s not yours, it will put you through extreme emotional ups and downs.
3. Compassionate empathy
This ability moves you to take action. Understanding and feeling what others feel triggers the need to react and provide help in any way you can.
Empathy vs. Sympathy: What’s the Difference?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, while sympathy is the feeling of pity for someone’s negative experience. In other words, empathy offers a much deeper level of comprehension, compared to sympathy.
Ajit Nawalkha, co-founder of Evercoach by Mindvalley, explains that most people confuse empathy with sympathy.
“When you are sympathetic, the person who feels bad starts to feel worse,” he says. “So, it’s not helpful when you want to go deep to create a transformation. Empathy, on the contrary, allows you to release and let go of the negative emotions by sharing these emotions with the person.”
So, unlike sympathy which deepens and extends the negative experience, empathy allows you to go through it faster because you help the other person stay fully in it by being present with the person in whatever emotional state they are in.
8 Tips on How to Show Empathy
Empathy is about sharing emotions, so, opening yourself up to the other person is the first step. It implies being ready to share their deepest fears and vulnerabilities without judgment.
Ajit explains that you won’t be able to understand them because you aren’t them, especially when their pain is so strong that you can’t relate to it. So, trying too hard won’t help either.
Here are some tips on how to show empathy, especially when it doesn’t come naturally:
- Listen deeply. It’s more than enough to give the person your full attention. It also includes silence when you simply hold space for another person. You can be silent in ways that tell them you are present with their pain, without trying hard to relate to it.
- Reflect back on what you hear. Repeat or paraphrase what the person has said to let them know that you understand their feelings and to clarify what they mean.
- Use nonverbal cues. Nodding and maintaining eye contact indicate that you are engaged and present with what the person is sharing.
- Use words of reassurance. Remind them you’re there for them, and everything they share will stay within the two of you so that they have a safe space to open up fully with a sense of safety.
- Avoid judgment and criticism. Refrain from judging their experience and don’t make any meaning out of it. Take it as a matter of fact, without labeling it as bad or good.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Looking at the experience through someone else’s lens implies seeing and understanding it the way they do. And it’s the only way to be truly empathetic.
- Validate their feelings. Let the person know that their feelings are valid and understandable, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Practice empathy regularly. Trying to put yourself in other people’s shoes in different situations and practicing deep and active listening will help you develop this invaluable skill.
A final crucial key to empathy is self-awareness. The more you understand your own emotions and feelings, the deeper your ability to empathize with others.
Keep Learning and Growing With Mindvalley
Empathy is a skill that can be developed with time and practice. It’s the skill of accommodating different perspectives, cultures, and ways of life. And it’s crucial for every interaction you have with other people as it makes you more service-oriented.
Perhaps, empathy is one of the most important skills to develop in today’s world, as it can bring more compassion, peace, and unity.
If this resonates with you, joining Mindvalley will allow you to learn from teachers and trainers with diverse professional and personal backgrounds, cultures, religions, and perspectives on personal growth and all aspects of life.
Here’s a short list of quests to help you better understand yourself and others:
- Duality with Jeffrey Allen
- Awaken the Species with Neale Donald Walsch
- Energies of Love with Donna Eden
- Conscious Parenting Mastery with Dr. Shefali Tsabary
You can sample classes of the quests with them by unlocking your free access.
Most importantly, by joining Mindvalley, you will have the opportunity to grow and transform alongside like-minded people from all walks of life — open to sharing their experiences and eager to learn from yours.