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How to Cultivate More Empathy for Others

How to Cultivate More Empathy for Others

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”? Of course you have! While no one knows who said it first, the intention behind the saying remains: before you judge someone else, empathize with them. Empathy can be difficult to pin down. While many people consider it synonymous with sympathy, the two words are actually very distinct. Though sympathy refers to feeling compassion for someone, empathy goes deeper into actually experiencing someone else’s feelings. As Walt Whitman said, “I do not ask a wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” 

In today’s day and age, true empathy seems to be few and far between. People argue, fight and yell at one another, oftentimes because they simply cannot understand the other side. However, there are ways we can challenge ourselves to grow in empathy. If you want to learn more, check out these tips for how to cultivate more empathy for others. 

Listen.
The first (and most valuable) step for empathy is listening. More often than not, we forget to listen to the other side, frankly because we’re too busy preparing our own argument. Instead, focus on actively listening to what other people have to say. Listen with your ears (what is said), your eyes (what their body language does) and your heart (how the other person feels). Carefully set aside your own agenda, opinion and thoughts while actively listening. Be fully present in the conversation and genuinely soak in the other person’s words.

Validate.
Once you have listened entirely to what the person has to say, and they have fully finished their thoughts, validate their perspective. This doesn’t mean you must agree with their opinion, but it does mean you must acknowledge it. More than likely, they have good reasons to hold that opinion, so you can at least validate them in their experiences. Thank them for their input, show appreciation for their perspective and validate their opinion.

Examine.
Now that you’ve listened and validated the other person, be sure to examine your attitude. Sometimes empathy can be challenging because our attitude holds us back. Even if we want to listen to the other side, we might still feel bitterness, annoyance or even animosity towards them. Are you more concerned with being right and getting your way, or with finding a mutual solution and building a new relationship? Critically examine your own attitude as you enter the situation and consider how you can shift your perspective to be more open towards others.

Question.
Questions are crucial to an empathetic conversation. Whether your loved one is hurting or you disagree with someone, questions matter. Try to ask questions of the other person before offering up your advice or even presenting your argument. Why do they think that? What experiences have shaped their life? What makes them feel that way? Questions like these are a simple way to start a meaningful conversation, gain insight and truly understand where the other person is coming from.

Walk.
Finally, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. While this might not be physically possible, you can still try new experiences or envision yourself in their life. For instance, make a new friend who doesn’t look like you, visit a different part of town or try out a new place of worship, store or community center. If these options aren’t available, then read books by different authors, watch unique films and listen to music by people you’ve never heard of before. Branch out and try something new in order to expand your comfort zone and gain more empathy for others.

Empathy can be difficult to define, and even more difficult to experience. However, there are ways to grow your empathy and build relationships with new people. Keep these tips in mind if you want to cultivate more empathy for others, and see how your life flourishes. 

Our Impact in 2018

January 1-December 31
  • CAPSA is a non-profit domestic violence, sexual abuse, and rape recovery center serving Cache County and the Bear Lake area.

  • YCC Family Crisis Center is a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center provide services 24/7 to victims and their children.

  • Utah Legal Services (ULS) is a nonprofit law office incorporated in 1976 committed to making equal justice a reality by providing free legal help in non-criminal cases to low-income Utahns.

  • South Valley Services is a domestic violence service provider in West Jordan, Utah. We provide safe shelter and supportive services to women, men and their children who have been impacted by domestic violence.

  • Today, the YWCA is Utah’s most comprehensive provider of family violence services; our programs include walk-in services and a crisis line, emergency shelter, transitional housing, children’s programs, and a vast array of supportive services.

  • Established in 1990, Seekhaven assists survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault rebuild their lives. Serving Grand County and Southeastern Utah, Seekhaven provides a wide range of essential services including client advocacy, emergency shelter, and transition assistance.

  • Peace House is dedicated to ending family violence and abuse through education, outreach, support services, and safe housing.

  • New Hope Crisis Center has been serving Box Elder County for 30 years. Our mission is to provide all-inclusive, integrated, victim-centered services to stabilize and support individuals, families, and our community.

  • Founded in 1984, The Center for Women and Children in Crisis has been in continuous operation for 33 years. Our mission is to provide a caring, advocating, safe, and educationally based environment for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

  • Our organization advocates for victims of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, and the homeless. Serving people in Sevier, Piute, Millard, Sanpete and Wayne counties of Utah.

  • The DOVE Center is the only area agency providing safe-shelter, crisis intervention, and prevention for clients who have been victimized by violence in their home – whether by a family member or cohabitant – that also serves victims of rape and sexual assault.

  • Founded in 1922, Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake is a non-profit organization that promotes safety, stability and self-sufficiency for low income families and individuals, as well as victims of domestic violence, through effective, efficient legal advocacy and assistance.

  • Canyon Creek Services provides free and confidential services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Iron, Beaver and Garfield Counties.

  • Valley Behavioral Health is a nonprofit network of clinics providing treatment for behavioral conditions, addictions, psychiatric conditions, autism and other chronic health conditions. We treat chronic lifelong conditions as well as temporary conditions triggered by traumatic life events. Our programs are tailored to people of all ages and every social, cultural and economic situation.

  • Preserve the heritage. Enhance the wellbeing. Strengthen the future of the People.

  • Our Mission: To help families of homicide victims receive hope, justice, and healing.

  • At Amethyst Center for Healing we are dedicated to helping individuals, families, and communities recover from trauma and abuse, so that we may all live peaceful, empowered lives.

  • Safe Harbor, a non-profit organization, provides shelter, supportive services and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as education, awareness and resources to our community.

© 2019 Utah Domestic Violence Coalition

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