14 Ways to Cultivate Empathy
An antidote to being judgmental.
Linda: Some people are under the false impression that empathy is something that you either have or you don’t. They don’t understand that empathy can be learned. Of course, some people are naturally more empathic than others, but there is huge room for development if there is motivation to do so. There are many good reasons to commit to the practice of becoming more empathic; one of the most important one being that cultivating empathy is the antidote to being judgmental.
If you are truly motivated to have deep closeness with your partner, you have to understand them. A conscious effort can be made to deepen that understanding, and one of the best ways to go about it is to ask penetrating questions. Through your sincere desire to understand their perspective, which may be quite different from your own, you can become closer. Replacing impatience, irritation judgment, with curiosity works like a charm. Stretch into their world; look at issues through their eyes. Factor in their history that has influenced their views to appreciate their style of being in the world.
Here are some practices for cultivating empathy:
- Practice committed, non-reactive listening by tuning in to the deeper levels of their message.
- Move away from right and wrong thinking.
- When you notice judgments in the mind, remind yourself about “different strokes for different folks.”
- Become more tolerant and accepting of the values and styles of others.
- Make room for the full range of intense feelings in yourself and others: fear, hurt, confusion, anger, sadness, grief, shame, guilt, joy, and happiness.
- Resist giving advice even if it’s solicited.
- Bring forth warmth, affection, and your open heart.
- Be willing to share your own personal struggles to normalize whatever struggle they are going through.
- Bring a sense of curiosity by asking more questions, in an attempt to understand the deeper meanings of their experience.
- Remember that there is no such thing as win-lose in relationship. There is only lose-lose and win-win. We both win through understanding.
- Show respect for the human predicament. We all make mistakes while we are learning.
- Understand the distinction between unskillful behavior and their character, and be sure to only speak about the behaviors.
- Look for their strengths and remind them of those strengths.
- Be grounded in the truth that we are all growing and there is an innate drive toward healing and mastery.
When we cultivate empathy that part of us that tends to be judgmental diminishes and others immediately sense the shift in attitude. Our accepting and compassionate attitude has a strong impact on the relationship. Our partner feels our acceptance and understanding which assists them to accept their own experience, and to accept themselves in general. In the process, the level of fear goes down, and the bond in the relationship becomes more secure.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.
“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” – Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate
Bloom, L. (2016). 14 Ways to Cultivate Empathy. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2016/06/14-ways-to-cultivate-empathy/