6 Ways To Be More Empathic in Relationships

Updated: Mar 30

Empathy is at the heart of all healthy relationships. It's the foundation of constructive communication, connection, and cooperation. It's what binds communities together and what inspires us to care for one another. Without empathy, everyone would care only for themselves, and society would collapse because our survival depends on working together and helping one another.

In this article, we'll discuss what empathy is, why empathy is important, and 6 ways how we can increase our empathy.


What is Empathy exactly?

Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in someone else's place, to be able to see things from another person's perspective, to understand another person's emotion, and to relate to what they feel.


Empathy is at the foundation of all healthy and productive relationships. Where there's empathy there is greater understanding, caring, cooperation, collaboration, communication, and progress. Empathy helps us to connect, cultivate intimacy, and to build trust as well as to resolve disagreements, tensions, and avoid conflicts altogether.


When empathy is lacking, we become disconnected from one another. It can lead to conflict, hostility, and hatred. Without empathy relationships fall apart, families, communities, and entire societies can collapse.


Empathy is inherent in all of us, except psychopaths who only make up a very small percentage of the population. But for the rest of us, which is most of us, empathy is a natural human trait. However, several factors can cause empathy to become diminished.


Many things in life can cause us to become increasingly closed off and insensitive to others. Just as our empathy can become concealed, it can also be uncovered. We can get more in touch with our natural empathy, and we can open up in such a way to influence how we engage with others.


6 Ways To Increase Empathy


1. Do not judge or make assumptions

When we're encountering others, rather than making assumptions or judgments, try to understand first. Be curious, ask questions, and try to see the world from their perspective. Understand that everyone has a unique perspective of the world. Varying factors give us this unique perspective like where we grew up, how we are raised, what we do for a living, who we associate with, what kind of information we're exposed to, and many other things.


2. Focus more on similarities than on differences

While we can certainly acknowledge the differences, see if you can look beyond them and find similarities. We all have more things in common than you might initially realize. It may not always seem that way, but it all depends on how you look at it and what you choose to focus on.


We're all conditioned by our perspective upbringing, we're all imperfect, have our flaws and limitations, and we all experience pain and disappointment. We feel the same array of emotions, including fear, frustration, and sadness. We all want to be happy, feel safe, loved, and live in peace. If we can approach one another with this in mind, it can be the foundation to build a connection.


3. See yourself and others as individuals rather than as members of a group

Most people identify with some religious or political ideology, nationality, ethnicity, and other things. The more strongly someone identifies with any group, the more difficult it is to empathize with people outside of that group.


Even members within the same group can be quite different from one another. So even when you encounter someone who identifies with some specific group, understand that you're still engaging with an individual with their own unique experiences and whose feelings are just as real and valid as your own.


4. Spend more time listening than speaking

When you're engaging with others, see if you can listen with the sincere intention to understand. Try to understand why they see things the way they do. Understand their perspective and see if you can understand the underlying emotion.


There's usually much more to what a person is expressing beyond their words. The way people think and perceive can often be related to what they are feeling. Even when a person's emotional state seems obvious, there is often something else beneath the surface.


If someone is angry, it often arises from other underlying emotions such as fear or frustration. We all know what it's like to feel frustrated and fearful. Sometimes we're frustrated because we don't feel heard. But when people feel heard, they tend to be calmer and open up more, allowing for greater connection.


When you listen to someone without making judgments, it shows that you care. When there is mutual respect, the other is usually just as willing to listen to you as you are. If we listened and understood one another better, we could resolve many of the world's problems.


5. Allow yourself to experience emotions

The more out of touch we are with our feelings, especially feelings like grief, sorrow, hurt, humiliation, and insecurity, the more insensitive we tend to be regarding the feelings of others.


To empathize with someone, you have to relate to what they're feeling. If you aren't allowing yourself to feel certain emotions, then naturally, it's much more difficult to relate to those same emotions when others are experiencing them.


We can be so absorbed in our emotional suffering that we become numb to the suffering of others. Our suffering might be so overwhelming that we don't want to take on the additional weight of someone else's. Maybe we feel like no one understands our suffering, and we become bitter and resentful, and in that bitterness, we refuse to care about anyone else.


The reality, however, is that we all experience suffering in all of its various forms. If we can recognize this, our suffering can become helpful to empathize with others, and when we empathize with others, it reduces the intensity of our suffering.


6. Don't get isolated by your own emotions

When we're focused solely on our own suffering, it creates a sense of isolation and loneliness. It makes our suffering feel more intense and overwhelming. When we shift our focus to acknowledge that others are also suffering and that many are suffering in the same way we are, we realize that we're not alone. Making empathy a means to reduce our suffering.


If we want others to be more empathetic, the best we can do to influence that is to be a living example of it by getting more in touch with our empathy and expressing it.


Read more on Do People With Borderline Have Empathy?