How To Awaken A Powerful Personality Trait.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines empathy as “The feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”
As I write this article, I am also preparing to deliver a speech at a state government organisation, on Diversity In The Workplace.
In that speech, I will say this – “Empathy allows us to be more human.”
What does that mean?
It means that when we come from a place of empathy, we are more in touch with another person’s feelings, thoughts, and reality.
Can empathy be taught?
In one of his articles, empathy expert Dr Roman Krznaric wrote “According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathise wired into their brains – an in-built capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.”
I am on the same page as Dr Krznaric – I realise that empathy exists in people. It’s less a matter of teaching them empathy, and more a matter of awakening empathy in them.
How do you awaken empathy in others? Here are 3 suggestions:
1. Use questions – As speaker, I ensure that my speeches have emotionally engaging questions throughout the speech. Whenever I do volunteer speaking for charities, my goal is to get the audience members to support the charity. How do I achieve that goal? By awakening empathy in them. How do I awaken empathy in them? By asking questions! I ask questions such as “Can you imagine how the people in need will feel when they receive support from this charity?” Followed by “When you put yourself in their shoes, do you gain clarity on their plight?” In my Effective Communication training courses, this is something that I say emphatically “When you make a statement, people listen. When you ask a question, people think.” As you can see, questions have the power to awaken empathy.
2. Use “call backs” – A call back is when you make reference to something that happened in the past to the person whom you are engaging with at the time. For example, let’s say that you are parent, talking to your child. Your request to him/her is to be kind to other children. You could say something along the lines of “Do you remember when I took you to my manager’s son’s birthday party? You didn’t know anyone there. My manager’s son was very kind to you and played with you. Can you please do the same thing to kids that you don’t know when they come to our place”. A call back is very emotionally engaging because it makes the person re-live an experience.
3. Lead by example – This is one of the most empathic ways to awaken empathy in others. Actions indeed speak louder than words. I am fortunate and blessed to know many people who have dedicated their lives to the services of others (be it humans or animals). These role models of mine have not only awakened more empathy in me, they have also enlightened thousands of others to become more empathic. When you lead by example and beam empathy towards other living beings, people are more likely to follow your lead. Through experience I can say this – empathy breeds empathy. Whenever I see or hear from someone who beams empathy, I become more inclined to show more empathy. So, please lead by example!
Now, let’s look at when/where to use empathy:
· Home – When I was a kid, my mum used to take three modes of transport (car, train, bus) to get to work for a few years. My goal was to make life easier for my mum when she got back from work. After coming back from school, I would tidy the kitchen, get the washing off the line, and take the rubbish out before she got home from work. Put yourself in the shoes of people at home, and feel what they’re going through. Then, look at how you can help them.
· Work – Whenever I deliver staff training to sales professionals, this is what I ask “Put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Look at things from their perspective. Now, tell me, what do they want, how do they want it, and when do they want it?” You can also apply that to your colleagues and have empathy for them.
· Conflict Resolution – Whenever I am called upon by organisations to assist with conflict resolution, the first question I ask each party is “Please tell me in precise detail, what is it that you are asking for?” Followed by “Now, please put yourself in the position of the other party (see things from their perspective and feel their emotions) and tell me what would you want?”
· Social justice causes – As mentioned earlier, in all my social justice work, I ask people to put themselves in the position of those that I am willing to make a difference to. You could do the same. Help people in awakening empathy, and they will be more willing to take part in making a positive impact.
Empathy is universal and has no barriers. It can be applied to anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
I switched to a plant based diet in 2009 because I had empathy for animals.
Whenever you put yourself in the place of another living being and make an attempt to see what they see and feel what they feel, you are connecting with a deeper part of you that was created to feel for others, think of others, and act for others.
Quote: ““Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” Mohsin Hamid
I hope I have given you a simple insight into being empathic and helping others in awakening empathy.
Inspiring you towards your excellence,
Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Personal/Professional Development Mentor)
PS: I have just launched a series of personal development videos called Welcome To Your Life. Here is Episode 2 (Self Image) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MLYE8WMzVo