4 Habits of Highly Empathetic People
At this point in my life, I am very selective about who I disclose my struggles with. In fact, I can count them with one hand.
It’s not a lot of people, but I know better than to talk to dozens of people about what I’m going through. That sounds exhausting just thinking about it.
In life, we only need a few people — even just one — who we can truly trust and confide in. And when we find that person, it can make a world of difference in your life.
Imagine being able to talk to someone comfortably without fear of being judged. Imagine having someone there to work and process your thoughts and emotions with you. Imagine leaving the conversation feeling good, connected, and understood. Imagine breathing new life into yourself.
These are the empathizers — the luminaries of relationships, the champions of healing, and the guardians of societies as we know it.
In a world where division, disagreement, and hate run rampant, it could certainly benefit from having more people who strive to unite, understand, and give love.
But what exactly do they do when they’re talking to us? Why do we love talking to them? Why do we feel like we gained so much after spending time with them? More importantly, is there a way that I can be like them too?
Well, the good news is that empathy is an interpersonal skill that can be developed.
Meaning, if we want to learn how to be better at understanding and connecting with our loved ones, we don’t have to look very far. We simply have to take a look at and learn from the set of habits and behaviors from the master themselves — those who stand out as one of the best people to reach out to in times of need.
They Don’t Choose to Offer Solutions
“Empathy works so well because it doesn’t require a solution. It requires only understanding.” — John Medina
Empathizers don’t spend their time trying to problem-solve your issues.
They don’t see you as a store that needs to be better managed, a company that needs to calculate their ROI, or as a Rubik's Cube that needs to be solved.
They simply see you as a human who is processing and experiencing complex thoughts and emotions.
Instead of giving advice or offering their own opinions, they ask questions.
- How do you feel about it?
- What do you mean by that?
- What do you make of what is happening?
- Can you tell me more?
- Have you been able to process what to do next?
They are curious, and they seek to only better understand your perspective, especially if it contrasts with theirs. In doing so, they are also able to help you navigate and sort our your thoughts and emotions.
While providing a solution could be helpful, what’s far more important for empathizers is to ensure that you feel heard and understood.
They Affirm and Validate Your Experiences
“Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.” — Sheryl Sandberg
Empathizers don’t say things like “Just push through it,” or “Just suck it up.”
Instead of trying to diminish or minimize your experiences, empathizers validate them.
They say things like “I know this must be hard for you,” or “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.”
They stand behind you, but more importantly, they stand behind the difficulties and challenges that come with trying to navigate your circumstances.
In other words, they understand that things are hard for you.
As a result, they are able to cultivate a space where you’re able to speak freely without the fear of being judged. You don’t have to pretend around them that everything is okay; you can embrace your problem as something that needs love and attention— so that you can actually take the first step to real change.
They Are Generous With Their Time and Attention
“True empathy is not about waiting to understand another person; it is about proactively seeking to do so. It takes effort to give another person your full time and attention; to ask others how they are feeling and if they coping well with things.” — Nigel Cumberland
It is not enough for empathizers to sit back and wait for someone to call on them in a time of need.
They spend their time proactively seeking how they can make the world a better place, whether that be checking up on a friend or supporting a cause.
They understand that time and attention are some of the most precious commodities in the world, so they spend them wisely by being fully aware of how they interact with you.
When you spend time with them, they are fully present. They give you their full, undivided attention. They are extremely aware of their body language to ensure that they don’t give you any reason to doubt that they actually care about you and what you’re going through.
They have a knack of making it seem like there is no one else in the room but you. But in fact, that’s how empathizers really feel: there is nothing else that matters more in this world but you.
They Give You the Floor, the Mic, and the Stereo
“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality character that can change the world.” — Barack Obama
While others share their experiences in an attempt to relate, empathizers only do so when it’s absolutely necessary or when they’re asked to.
Empathizers give you as much time and as many chances as possible to speak about what you’re going through and how you feel about it.
Most of the time in a conversation, they are attentive but silent. That’s because they understand that sometimes, the best thing to say is to say nothing at all.
They let you speak to your heart’s content, and they try their best to not interrupt you, let alone speak over you.
They always have their focus on you, and you only. And if they can, keep the conversation centered around you, not about them.
And in the process of doing so, they are continuously putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and endlessly learning how to see through their lens.
It’s because of this reason that empathizers are known to enact social change. They consider, amplify, and speak for the voices of the unheard, and in doing so, inspire positive change in the world.