Building Your Empathy Muscle

Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and appreciate the way others feel. It is a crucial component in building strong interpersonal relationships. We often hear empathy described as putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. However, to be effective in empathy, we have to move outside ourselves. We need to hear their story, not our story. Showing empathy is more about action than about words. When someone shares difficult information, they are looking for someone to listen. They are being vulnerable and needing validation. Do not try to fix their problem. Show empathy by acknowledging their pain, sharing how you feel after you hear the information, and expressing gratitude that the person opened up.

Choose your words carefully. Use language like:

“That must be so hard for you.”
“I can see how that would be difficult.”
“This must be hard to talk about. Thank you for opening up to me.”

Empathy does not come naturally to most people. It requires practice listening deeply. Building your empathy muscles will strengthen your ability to manage and foster transformative relationships.

Written By: Pat Mater

About the Author

Pat Mater, MSIR, SPHR

Vice President, Robertson Lowstuter, Inc.

Pat Mater is an accomplished human resources executive and valued business partner with over 25 years of experience adding value to executives, their teams, and their organizations. Read Full Bio


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