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Practicing empathy can be a challenging experience. It is not easy to set aside judgment and attempt to understand opposing views or actions of others. It requires revising specific modes of thinking, such as the tendency to take sides in a conflict or a persistent urge to criticize.

Yet, acting with service, compassion and empathy is always a choice! Boost your compassion for yourself and others and join me in a 7-day Compassion Challenge:

 

We are at a critical juncture when empathetic communication skills need to take precedence. One way to build your “empathy muscle” is through acquiring the competence and confidence to have tough conversations with others. Coming to alignment in your relationships can increase emotional resilience and intensify feelings of empathy. Try developing healthier habits of mind that incorporate compassionate responses. It is possible to train your brain for empathy.

Here are five ways to build motivation and positivity that will allow you to express empathy naturally:

1. Kindness reigns.

It has been proven many times over that you will feel happier when you act in service of others. The first step is to be kind to yourself – that is your “inside game.” Performing acts of kindness for others generates a ripple effect that leads to a more empathetic point of view.

2. Gain perspective.

Try to view circumstances from another person’s standpoint. Instead of assuming, stop and take a breath before you react to gain some perspective. You may be behaving in a knee-jerk fashion that comes from a place of judgment. Practice empathy by asking better questions to gain a deeper understanding of others.

3. Let go of resentment.

When you judge others or hold on to anger, it can show up in your verbal and non-verbal communication. When your thoughts become jaded by resentment, try to be more patient with yourself–and then exercise that patience with others. Remember to forgive, which is the ultimate antidote to bitterness.   

4. Stop complaining.

Complaining is a trap that many fall into. Be mindful of criticizing others. Focus on providing constructive insight and work toward contributing to a collaborative solution. Pause before speaking and consider the impact of voicing your resistance or disparagement. Will it add value to the conversation or will it devalue your relationship?

5. Practice stillness.

Nothing expands your capacity for empathy faster than mindfulness meditation. The scientific community now realizes what the ancient yogis knew long ago — quieting the mind is good for you. Just a few of the benefits include more focus, self-esteem, better relationships, improved resilience and ultimately more control over your emotions. Try sitting quietly for a few minutes each day and tune in to the sound of your breath — or try this meditation for beginners.

 

 

*The original version of this article was published on Inc.com
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