“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.” Carl Rogers
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. It also is the ability to feel and share another person's emotions. Some believe that empathy involves the ability to match another's emotions, while others believe that empathy involves being tenderhearted toward another person.
Ways to Improve Your Empathy
Undertake challenging experiences which push you outside your comfort zone. Learn a new skill, for example, such as a musical instrument, hobby, or foreign language. Develop a new professional competency. Doing things like this will humble you, and humility is a key enabler of empathy.
Get out of your usual environment.
Travel, especially to new places and cultures. It gives you a better appreciation for others.
Explore the heart not just the head.
Read literature that explores personal relationships and emotions. This has been shown to improve the empathy of young doctors.
Walk in others’ shoes.
Talk to others about what it is like to walk in their shoes—about their issues and concerns and how they perceived experiences you both shared.
Examine your biases.
We all have hidden (and sometimes not-so-hidden) biases that interfere with our ability to listen and empathize. These are often centered around visible factors such as age, race, and gender. Don’t think you have any biases? Think again—we all do.
Practicing Yoga Empathy
In pairs, have the students practice yoga poses we have learned. One person will model the pose; one will mirror them. Switch.
Discuss the power of being part of a team: How did it feel to lead? To have someone follow? To follow?
In pairs, have one student close their eyes and stick out their index finger.
Have the other student gently guide their classmate around the room by their finger while watching their facial expressions to make sure they feel safe.
Trust Walk with Sensory Adventure
Do Trust Walk again, this time handing the eyes-closed partner different objects from around the room (e.g., stuffed animals, flowers, soft fabrics, etc.).
Breathing, Body scan, Loving kindness and Deep meditation