When you hear about accidents, natural disasters and other tragedies happening, what is your first response? After the initial shock, the overwhelming emotion is likely to be empathy.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others to understand what they are feeling. And while it comes naturally to most when the big stuff happens, it can be easily forgotten when it comes to the small but significant everyday things that affect the people around us.
So why is everyday empathy important? Because it provides a real opportunity to connect with and have a positive impact on the lives of those around us. Here’s how you can bring more empathy to your day.
Each day there are many opportunities to show empathy – but they’re often missed because we’re not paying attention. It’s easy to get caught up in your own head and not realise when others are struggling. The simple act of noticing when your colleague has had a bad day, is dealing with a personal issue or a has a hefty workload makes a difference. You don’t need to solve their problems to have an impact – a small gesture or kind word goes a long way when things are tough.
When you realise that everyone you interact with is trying to navigate their way through a life as chaotic and unpredictable as your own, you’re less likely to judge. If others seem a bit off or distant, question why this might be rather than taking it personally. Empathy is all about making the effort to see the whole picture of someone’s life – and when you put yourself in their shoes you’ll quickly realise it’s as complex as your own.
When you realise that everyone you interact with is trying to navigate their way through a life as chaotic and unpredictable as your own, you’re less likely to judge.
Empathy is not about taking it upon yourself to solve the world’s problems. It’s a personal and genuine interaction that enables you to connect with another person through understanding. It doesn’t matter if it’s the newest member of your team or the CEO of the company – empathy is available to anyone regardless of their age, gender, position or social status.
Practising empathy brings a better understanding of people, and this has a big impact on ourselves and others. At work, it allows us to have more meaningful interactions with our colleagues, which helps us become better leaders. When you can notice when something is not right with someone in your team, you can provide a little extra support when they need it, helping them through both the big and small challenges.
Empathy Every Day Matters
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities to practise empathy every single day. Don’t wait for the big stuff – every interaction with another person provides you with a chance to show your understanding and have a positive impact.
When you can look beyond the obvious, question your internal assumptions and keep an open mind, it allows you to take a step back and think before you react. Do this, and you’ll find yourself making more meaningful connections with others - and importantly, seeing the value in their experiences as much as your own.
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