In an earlier article, I discussed empathy, gave a few ideas on how to overcome selfishness (see: https://www.ldsdimension.com/articles/overcoming-selfishness-254/). As a compliment and an extension of that article, I wanted to focus on empathy, as well as add some extra ideas on how to develop it. From an article in Psychology Today magazine, empathy is described as follows:
“Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced. Some surveys indicate that empathy is on the decline in the United States and elsewhere, findings that motivate parents, schools, and communities to support programs that help people of all ages enhance and maintain their ability to walk in each other’s shoes”. (source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy).
So…why is empathy on the decline today versus earlier generations? The reasons vary, I’m sure. But I would say a prime reason comes from our modern technology. In previous times, people left the house much more, interacted more, and overall, learned how to deal with each other more effectively. Empathy towards others naturally developed and increased in such scenarios. Conversely, the more people stay at home, avoid being around other people, and lack people experience in general, empathy sags, as does social skills in general.
A famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson clarifies this truth in life: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.” Said the opposite way as well, that which we neglect doing becomes harder to do. Not that the nature of the thing has changed, but our power to do so has remained weak and stagnant. So, in sum, empathy—as well as people skills in general—is stronger when it is regularly worked on and practiced and weakens when it is not.
Suggestions to boost empathy:
*Initiate regular conversations with all people in your life. Family, friends, coworkers, strangers, acquaintances…find opportunities to have more conversations with them, more often. Initiate these conversations. Ask about the other. Let them do most of the talking. Practice trying to understand what they are experiencing and why. Find out the emotional reactions that had along the way. Work to have the situation and the emotional reaction to it make sense to you. Ask them. Take an interest in their emotions. In short, understand how X situation triggered Y emotional reaction to it. The more you learn about these reactions and connections, the more empathy you can develop in others in future situations.
*Learn to read non-verbals. A great way to decipher and develop empathy is to better read body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. There are online videos and articles that define how X body language or facial expression reveals Y emotional reaction. There are plenty of free articles and videos on the subject you can Google and review. A good key word to try is “facial recognition”. If you would like to take a whole online training on the subject, there are many. Here is one you can check out: https://www.theknowledgeacademy.com/us/courses/face-and-speech-recognition/face-recognition-training/.
*Get more in touch with your own emotions: when you can better identify and express your own emotions and emotional reactions to things, this can also boost your ability to then have empathy towards others going through similar scenarios in the future. To get better at this, you can ask yourself and journal answers to the following outline:
1) I feel_____ (or, I felt_____)
(Identify 1-3 emotion words)
(What situation or event occurred)
(Why? Why was it that when that situation or event occurred, you had that emotional reaction to it?)
4) I wish_____
I would like_____
(What about that? What would you wish for or what would you like better or different than that?)
To expand your feelings word vocabulary list for this exercise, you may wish to Google and adopt new additional feeling words. Here is a good list of potential feeling words to express: http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/assess/feelings.html#:~:text=Pleasant%20Feelings%20%20%20OPEN%20%20%20HAPPY,%20at%20ease%20%2059%20more%20rows%20
Developing empathy will help you understand and relate to others better. Increasing this skill will also assist connecting better with others emotionally, which will only increase your opportunities and odds for dating and marriage success. Arguments and misunderstandings will decrease. Affection and closeness will increase. Boosting your empathy is a valuable gift to give to yourself and others. It is both a skill and a feeling. Worthwhile to develop because “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.
P.S. If you have any questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to email@example.com).