Showing empathy isn’t difficult, but it does require that we be intentional. Being intentional means that we focus our full attention.
The act of being intentional has become more difficult as our lives have become busier. We have devices and tools that take our attention away from what we’re doing and spread it out in multiple directions, in the same way light separates through a prism. Our attention, and intention, are no longer laser-focused.
So what can we do to focus our attention and become dedicated to showing empathy to others?
1–Turn your device(s) on silent and/or turn off notifications
We are so afraid of missing something on our phones, watches, tablets, and computers that we miss the things that are directly in front of us. Unfortunately, most of us have been on the receiving end when someone we’re speaking with gets distracted by their technology while we are mid-sentence. It feels like we are no longer important to them; their attention (and intention) has been removed from us and put on something else. If you know how that feels, try not to make others feel the same.
2–Keep advice to yourself and just listen
It is hard to not want to fix someone else’s problems, isn’t it? But most people just need a safe space to vent sometimes. They don’t really want you to swoop in and solve an issue because it’s not your issue to solve. Most people shut down as soon as the person listening to them says, “You know what you should do?”
3–Ask questions of others and yourself
When we’re with someone, whether it is a colleague, a friend, or our child, we should ask questions, especially if they’ve just told us about a problem they’re having. Asking questions and being curious shows that we are interested and we care. Asking questions may also help the person figure out how to solve their own conflict. Consider asking, “Do you think there is a solution to this?” or “How are you planning to handle this?”
It is also important that we ask ourselves questions as a way to check-in with our goals and desires: “What is it YOU want in this moment?” or “Do you really need to be doing this?” The more distractions we have at our fingertips the more we have to practice being tuned out to those things and tuned in to those we care about. What are some tips and tricks that you use?