EmpathyDid you know that empathy is considered by many people to be one of the most important skills we can possess as human beings? Notice that I said that empathy is a skill.

The reason for this is the fact that, believe it or not, empathy is not something that all people have or something we are all provided with when we are born.

Some people have a difficult time when it comes to empathizing with others. It’s safe to say that this, more often than not, causes serious complications in their lives.

Some of this difficulty may come from the fact that some people do not know the difference between sympathy and empathy. The following explanation should clear up any confusion you have on the matter.

Sympathy usually requires a person to have gone through the same thing that another person may currently be experiencing. This common occurrence in each person’s life allows them to know exactly how the other person feels as they have experienced it themselves.

On the other hand, empathy does not require someone to have experienced the same situations as someone else. Unlike sympathy which allows a person to know exactly how another person feels, empathy allows someone to get an idea of how another person feels and understand the emotions they are going through. Basically, you can have an idea of how another might feel but are not sure as you have never gone through it yourself.

Here is a perfect example:

A person has a friend die. Shortly afterward, one of this person’s other friends has a father that dies. The original person would be able to empathize with her friend due to the fact that they each lost a loved one but would be a little clueless of exactly how it feels to lose a father.

Does this make sense?

Developing the ability to empathize with others is highly important in a successful life. This is especially true for those who seek out love and compassion which I am sure that most of us do.

Empathy can be strengthened the same way that other communication skills can. The following are a couple empathy strengthening techniques that you may want to give a try.

• Allow the conversation to revolve around others
We as humans have a habit of shifting conversations toward ourselves. Sometimes this action is intentional and sometimes it is completely involuntary, either way it does not support empathy.

In order to be able to express empathy toward another you must first try and understand their situation and the emotions they may be experiencing. This is nearly impossible when a person is thinking about their self through the entire conversation. In order to empathize you must listen. I’m talking about doing much more than just hearing.

• Open Yourself Emotionally
This step of building empathy tends to be a little difficult for some people. However, it is highly important that you are able to open yourself emotionally to others. However, hurtful times in the past along with painful memories can make this a daunting task for some individuals.

With practice and time it will become easier. Believe it or not, this will actually benefit your life as a whole. Allowing yourself to open up and connect with others will open the doors to a life that is blessed to say the least.

Our lives can be improved by taking the time and having the compassion to stop and see things from other people’s point of views. Always keep in mind, what comes around goes around. Therefore, the more you are there for others, the more people will be there for you.

Sometimes there is nothing that can change something we may be going through. For example, deaths, loss of jobs or natural disasters. However, sometimes all we need is someone to talk to about the issues. The same way you may occasionally need a shoulder to cry on, other people do as well.

Society was a different place in the past. People cared for one another and went out of their way to make sure that their communities were not in need of anything, whether it be emotional support or financial help with the bills. It seems as if those days are gone. Slowly but surely it is turning into a dog eat dog world.

We must work together to put a stop to this and bring the world back to a place full of love and harmony instead of hate and darkness. While it can sometimes feel like we are small fish in a big pond and our actions have no impact, this couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Every little thing we do leads to something else happening. Therefore, whether you realize it or not, each empathetic action you show has a positive effect on the world in one way or another.

Learn more about empathy and other important life skills here.