For anyone in a relationship, or who would benefit from improving their people skills – like leaders, managers, parents, coaches, or pretty much everyone – empathy is one of the most important interpersonal skills. Your ability to empathize is directly related to the depth and quality of relationships you can sustain.
In his book Social Intelligence, the prolific social scientist Daniel Goleman talks in some depth about the latest findings on empathy. Specifically, Goleman speaks about three levels of empathy.
The basic level of empathy is achieved when one becomes aware of what another person is feeling. If you cannot discern the nuances of another’s emotions and moods, it is very hard to connect constructively.
The next level of empathy allows you to connect by “feeling into” what another person feels. When we allow ourselves to slow down, pay attention, and truly share someone else’s emotional experience, we can begin to understand their perspective much clearer.
The final level of empathy is being able to respond compassionately to what another feels. Beyond our natural human tendencies (to agree/disagree/judge/”fix”/influence), responding to someone else’s emotional truth with patience and compassion creates a connection from which powerful change can occur.
If you want to be a better partner, parent, or practice team member, I encourage you to practice deepening your empathy. Foundational to all this is your ability to manage your attention and you cannot have control of your attention until you begin to broaden the margins of your life and manage your stress.
What can you do today to slow down and really connect with someone special in your life?