How to grow your Empathy



You never really under stand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it” (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Empathy is hard wired into our brains and seems to be the catch phrase in the board room, class room and in the media . However, though we may seek understanding and connection with others, our rapid paced consumer life style appears to leave us hungry for this deeper meaning in our lives.

“..One in four say they are lonely and the same proportion suffer a mental health problem in their lives..this could hardly be called a happy state of affairs..” so says Roman Krznaric in his new book Empathy: A Handbook for a Revolution

Krznaric aims to show how empathy has the power to transform our relationships from the personal to the political. Here are his top five tips to help grow your empathy

Practice empathic listening:  Next time things are getting tense with another person at work or home simply focus intently on really listening to their needs and feelings. Pause and give them your full attention rather than planning what you want to say next. We would all like some one to step into our shoes if just for a minute to fully understand our experience. This can stop niggling resentment turning into full scale attack.

Get curious about strangers: Being empathic with those we care about is one thing , however Krznaric suggests we need to nurture our curiosity about strangers. Have a conversation with a stranger at least once a week. The man in the queue at the supermarket, the cleaner at your office, a fellow passenger on the bus. Beyond the chatter about weather is the deeper stuff in life that really matters so try to get to that. Conversations with strangers can be illuminating and also challenge our assumptions and snap judgements about  age, accent or appearance.

Go on an experiential adventure: Ask yourself the question “Whose shoes can I stand in next?” Perhaps you can travel to a part of your city you don’t know well and take in the sites and sounds. Volunteer for a charity, plan a holiday that explores a people or history unknown to you.  Expand you experiences of how others live.

Become a revolutionary: Empathy happens on a small and large scale. The Occupy Movement and The Arab Spring were motivated by empathy and the desire to create change for others. One way to grow your empathy is to connect with your community and join others in taking action on issues that have meaning to you.  Wether this is local politics, humanitarian or environmental change, working with others is a powerful and connecting feeling.  Even joining a local sporting club or interest group is a way to break down barriers between others.

Travel in your arm chair: Finally, Krznaric says you don’t have to go far at all to walk in the shoes of others. Books and films can catapult us into the human world . Stretching our imaginations and expanding our knowledge on how others live. Krznaric has founded the first online Empathy Library to help you find the best novels, non-fiction, children’s books films and videos all about empathy

You can see Roman Krznaric TEDx talk  How to Start an Empathy

So how are you going to change the way you connect to others around you?

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