Empathy was a word that I never fully understood growing up. I was always told to be empathetic to others, or show empathy for my actions. I knew it meant being nice and caring but I never looked into it much farther… until recently. After learning the depth of its meaning, I realized how important it really was and how it was something I could improve on.
Empathy encompasses a variety of emotional states:
- Placing yourself in another’s shoes and viewing their perspective
- Understanding the emotions, thoughts and feelings of others
- Caring for others and going out of your way to help them
- Making less distinct the differences between yourself and another
I’ve learned that empathy involves recognizing and understanding the emotional states of others and showing concern for them. Being aware of and getting in the habit of displaying both an emotional and mental connection to others has helped me respond to them in a reciprocated way. It goes beyond doing somebody a favor such as buying them a coffee or letting them borrow your pen. Empathy is a continual process of placing yourself in the other’s shoes and connecting with their thoughts and perspectives.
I realized it doesn’t matter if the other person is someone you barely know—whether they are your colleague, professor, co-worker or peer— being empathetic will foster favorable connections and trusting relationships. I encourage you to take some time and think about empathy like I have because it is amazing how much you reflect on your actions and discover there is always room for improvement.
“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”