Emotional Intelligence 201 – Empathy

In Emotional Intelligence (EQ) 101, I discussed the self-awareness and emotion regulation component of EQ skills. This blog will cover the other side of emotional intelligence, understanding the emotions of others, otherwise known as empathy. Empathy is a skill that allows us to deepen our connections with others, limit conflict, and reduce emotional pain. At the very least, empathy can create an emotionally safe environment, which is ideal for any situation involving humans!  Here are 3 tips to develop more empathy:

  • Allow Your Own Feelings – The more accepting you become of your own emotional experiences, the more comfortable and understanding you’ll likely be with the emotional expressions of others. Remember that numbing your emotions risks numbing joyful experiences too. To be alive is to feel.
  • Stay Curious – Seek to understand the other person, without judgment. What are they feeling? What might that be like for them? What else are they experiencing?
  • Communicating Understanding – True empathy involves taking the emotion another person is experiencing and finding that emotion within yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to have gone through the same thing they’re going through or get swept up in their pain, but you can at least identify what it feels like for them and stay present through their emotional expression. To communicate understanding, you can paraphrase what they’ve said back to them or give them validation through phrases like “That’s understandable” or more my style, “Man, that’s tough”. Even if you don’t know what to say, just listening is the most powerful component of this skill.

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone. ‘” – Brené Brown 

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