Interpersonal Skills: How To Develop Empathy

As an integral part of your ability to establish and maintain a good relationship with others, interpersonal skills tend to integrate both your ability to handle both social issues around you and your inherent personality characteristics.

Some typical examples of interpersonal skills include the following;

  1. Motivation
  2. Teamwork
  3. Responsibility
  4. Dependability
  5. Flexibility
  6. Active listening
  7. Leadership
  8. Patience
  9. Empathy

However, in this article, we shall be walking you through empathy, developing empathy, real-life examples of empathy at work, and simple statements that portray empathy.

What are Interpersonal Skills and What is Empathy?

Interpersonal skills or people skills are characteristics or traits you exhibit or express when communicating with other people. And when it comes to interpersonal relationships, the most important element is empathy.

In most colloquial form, when we talk about empathy, the best way to describe it is by saying, “putting yourself in the shoes of the other person.” 

Being empathetic doesn’t denote that you must go through the same situation as the other person before to understand their plight.

For instance, for you to be empathetic about a student who fails an exam, you mustn’t have to go in for the same exams and fail before understanding how the student feels. 

In a nutshell, empathy deals more with your ability to understand, capture, and comprehend the other person’s emotional state as though you are feeling the same.

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How to develop empathy

HOW TO DEVELOP EMPATHY

If you observe that you don’t have empathy or that your level of empathy towards others isn’t as strong as you would like, it is never a death warrant. 

To improve and put empathy into practical use, you must see things from the viewpoint of other people instead of always from your perspective.

With that, you will be able to identify those reactions and behaviors from others, which you may term to be unreasonable, stubborn over-emotional, or even an action based on someone’s previous experience. 

If you want to develop a sense of empathy, make the following techniques, your new and favorite routine, and empathy will suddenly become your second nature. 

3 Techniques to Practice in order to Develop Empathy

  1. Always give others your full attention

In developing empathy towards others, the first step is by creating the environment to hear others out. In doing this, you employ your sense – eyes, ears, as well as your gut instincts, to carefully analyze and understand the message they are passing across to you.

The perfect point to start is by looking out for keywords or catchphrase in which a particular person tends to use repeatedly. After this, the second thing to look out for is the cues in which their body languages express – it could either be shamefulness, anger, or even fear.

Once you can do all of these, you can further move these stages by paying attention to their explanations empathically. And in doing this, you should avoid disputing facts or arguing with what the person is saying, or even asking direct questions.

  1. Consider the perspective of other people

To perfectly explain this point, the saying “before you come out to criticize others, first walk a mile in their shoes” should always ring a bell to you. 

To achieve your goals of listening to others empathetically, you must ensure that your mind is open and examine your thoughts.

With this, you won’t have to place too much attention and emphasis on your beliefs and assumptions since they will only help in taking your sense of empathy far away from you. 

After seeing things from the perspective of others and the reasons they do what they do, you can then accept their explanation, although this doesn’t imply that you are in absolute agreement with what they have said. 

Remember, it is no time for any debate. So, all you can do is show some level of respect to their explanation and keep listening as they continue.

In situations where you may be in doubt, you may have to politely request the person to give more explanations about their position and possibly ask how they think they will be able to handle the issue at hand. With the right questions, understanding the perspective of other people becomes very easy and direct.

  1. Take appropriate action

Well, when it comes to demonstrating your empathy towards others, there is no one-pattern-fits-all. However, doing this will depend on certain factors such as the dominant emotions from the individual as well as the individual him/herself. 

Also, always remember that exhibiting empathy towards others is not really about your interest; instead, it is more about the other person’s interest and benefit. So, in this case, any action you will be taking should suggest some level of benefits accrued to the other person. 

Take, for instance, one of your team may be battling with some issues at home. From the first point of view, it may seem that the best thing to do is to ask such a person to work from home until they can resolve the situation at hand. So, in this case, instead of jumping into an action you think is best from your perspective, it is better to ask the person which approach he/she thinks will be the best way to continue with their work.

Nevertheless, you must remember that empathy doesn’t only work in cases of crises alone. Instead, having a diversified view of the world is a huge talent, and it is a gift you can put to work in any situation. Remember; also, some random acts of charity and compassion are enough to lighten up anyone’s day.

For instance, if you mostly like to smile at people and easily remember their names, you are already practicing empathy without even knowing yourself. 

Also, being keen about others’ interest and life, paying full attention to your discussion with others, or even proffering some form of constructive feedback in response to what others say, are all forms of expressing empathy.

With all of these, it becomes very easy for people to start seeing you as trustworthy, caring, and approachable.

Some real-life examples of expressing empathy

Expressing empathy is something that can take almost any form and can be expressed in different situations. Be it in your professional, social, family, or even school interactions down to anywhere, there are endless ways to show empathy.

  1. Expressing Empathy For a sick spouse

Suppose you arrive home from work and notice that your spouse is down with the flu. And maybe you are already getting set for another appointment the next day; you can decide to take an excuse to be absent or arrive late for the meeting simply because you want to be around your spouse and possibly make a cup of tea for her.

You can boost his/her energy with some kind words of encouragement, although your true sense of empathy is seen in your actions.

  1. Expressing Empathy for An employee battling with a bad day

Suppose you come around to find a client angry at your employee about a product that wasn’t delivered as expected. 

You helped solve the problem, and the client went his way, and when you turn to your employee, you can tell that he/she really feels sorry about the incident and almost crying.  

Instead of yelling  or complaining at him/her, your empathic response might be, “it’s alright; you just need to be more careful next time.” 

  1. Expressing Empathy for An overwhelmed colleague in the office

If you have a colleague in the office with lots of jobs to complete, that may even cost him/her the weekend, and such work isn’t something you can help out with.

You can show some level of empathy by calling in to check on him/her with some words of encouragement if you can’t stop by with some snacks to keep them going.

  1. Expressing Empathy for Someone struggling with the loss

If you have someone who doesn’t seem to get over the grief of losing a loved one, you can empathically listen as they explain their pains, even if it has been months since the event occurred. 

Your empathic response could be some comforting words such as “I understand how hard it can be to feel grieved this way,” “take heart and be strong; some days are very difficult.”

  1. Expressing Empathy for A friend going through the pains of a breakup

If a friend within your social circle is going through the pains of a breakup, especially one you disapproved of.

Instead of venting your disappointment or judgment, listen carefully as he/she explains everything, and then hug him/her with some reassuring words such as “don’t worry, you’ll be fine, and you’ll find true love soon.” 

Other instances where you can express some form of empathy include when a friend fails an exam, a patient in pain, a student who gets bullied, etc. The list is unending.

HOW TO DEVELOP EMPATHY

Some Powerful Examples of Empathy Statements

You can express your sense of empathy about the emotions of others with these powerful examples from different sphere of life. 

Remember, empathy goes way deeper than just sympathy. So, these statements show how you share others’ perspective in different situations.  

You can express your sense of empathy about others’ emotions with these powerful examples from different spheres of life. 

Remember, empathy goes way deeper than just sympathy. So, these statements show how you share others’ perspectives in different situations.  

Empathy statements to a friend 

  1. I can see how difficult things have been
  2. Yes, you did everything within your reach
  3. I can see the more reason why you should be upset
  4. If that happened to me, I am not sure I could handle it the way you did
  5. I can feel your pains

Empathy statements for students

  1. I can see that you tried so hard here
  2. I understand what it feels like to have a bad grade after all you’ve done
  3. I am sorry, I couldn’t help
  4. It sounds like you were doing your best, despite how difficult it was
  5. I have been there. Sadly, some school days can be really bad
  6. I know that you feel like quitting this now, but I am glad that you aren’t  

Empathy statements for a romantic partner

  1. Yes, I know that things are really tough at the moment, but I am here for you
  2. I wish I were there with you when everything happened
  3. I do understand how hard this is for you to handle
  4. What you are saying makes a lot of sense to me
  5. Don’t worry; we’ll be fine.

Empathy statements for employees and coworkers

  1. Sure, uncertainty is a hard thing to handle
  2. If I were in your shoes, I would feel bad too
  3. I know that you’ve invested so much time and energy in this, and still, it didn’t work out
  4. I can hear your concerns from your voice
  5. Yes, it has been a tough week for you.

Empathy statements to customers

  1. I understand that you’ve invested a lot of time and resources in this already.
  2. After everything you’ve done, anyone would be frustrated as well.
  3. Your patience here has been very important.
  4. I know that our mistakes have cost you a lot of time and money. Please, let’s make it right.

To Wrap Up

Have you been struggling with how to develop a sense of empathy towards the people around you? If yes, then this article has done absolute justice to that. 

We hope to bring more of this your way soon!

References & Further Reading

VeryWellMinded. How to Develop Empathy in Relationships

GreaterGood. Six Habits of Highly Empathetic People

AceThePresentation. 7 Indicators of Good and Bad Social Skills

Emidio Amadebai

An avid seeker of knowledge, and passionate about sharing the lessons he picks up in life. Emidio is passionate about public speaking, teaching, and helping others develop critical soft skills, such as communication, leadership, and other interpersonal skills which are in high demand in today's rapidly evolving market.

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