Even though most people don’t believe it to be true, I must tell you that there are quite a few habits of empathic people that you can implement in order to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. Empathy is a concept widely used nowadays and it’s basically the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to understand their feelings, their perspective on things and to let that understanding guide your actions. Make sure you don’t confuse it with pity or with kindness; it’s something a bit different that everyone can cultivate in order to improve the quality of their life and the quality of life of the people around them. Studies have shown that this ability doesn’t stop developing in childhood and that in fact, you can pick it up later in your life and you can use it as “a radical force for social transformation.” Here are a few habits of empathic people that you can implement in order to make empathy a part of your daily life and to improve the lives of the people around you:
1. Cultivate Curiosity about Strangers
One of the most common habits of empathic people that you should try to develop too is to cultivate curiosity about strangers. Just try to imagine how you would feel or what would you think if you were someone else, for example a total stranger. Highly empathic people are extremely curious; they are interested in everyone else around them, they basically try to understand the world inside the head of another person. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, considers curiosity to be “a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction” and he couldn’t be more right!
2. They Have Good Listening Skills
Highly empathic people have amazing listening skills. They really are interested in what people tell them and also, they make others feel comfortable in their company. Everyone can improve their listening skills; it’s not so hard to do it. You just need to have a bit of patience, since you will need some time to turn this skill into a habit and also, you will have to put some effort into it, but the results will surely pay off and you will be glad you’ve made this choice.
3. They Challenge Prejudices
Highly empathic people have no prejudices and they don’t discriminate. They know people are different and they appreciate their individuality. They don’t use labels and they don’t judge someone based on other people’s opinions on them. They like to take time to discover who they are and they like to get to know them better first before making any assumptions. They usually challenge their own preconceptions by looking for those things that make them similar to other people instead of focusing on those aspects that make them different.
4. They Try Other People’s Lives
Because highly empathic people want to perfect this wonderful skill that they have, they often try to experiment with what other people do, so they can understand them better. They really like to put into practice that Native American proverb that goes something like this: “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.” So, try doing something you wouldn’t normally do just to understand better the people around you and this way, you will increase your emotional intelligence too.
5. They Open up
Empathic people are not only good listeners, they know how to make people feel comfortable in their company too. They do this by being able to open up and by talking about their own experiences, sometimes even with complete strangers. They are not afraid of being vulnerable by sharing personal details about their lives, they remove their masks and they simply allow others to see them as they are. Just like Roman Krznaric said, “Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.”
6. They Inspire Social Change
Highly empathic people can inspire mass action and even social change. Roman Krznaric said that “empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change… Empathy will most likely flower on a collective scale if its seeds are planted in our children." It’s important to get rid of all prejudices and stereotypes, so we can really understand each other and appreciate our individuality, because this is what makes us so special after all.
7. They Have a Big Imagination
People with a high emotional intelligence coefficient that are also highly empathic have a big imagination that allows them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, so they can understand their perspective on things and this way, to not see them as adversaries or as enemies. Roman Krznaric couldn’t have said it any better: "We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be 'enemies' in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. [...] Empathizing with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance."
On this matter, I absolutely love what Maya Angelou said: “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” Are you a highly empathic person? Do you know any other habits of empathic people that we could implement, so we could understand better the wonderful people around us and to enrich our lives as well? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section!