The stages of developing empathy and compassion

December 31, 2014 by Joshua
in Exercises

You can learn to improve your empathy and compassion skills. You can do so deliberately by practicing exercises that work. If you’re reading this, you know the value of empathy and compassion to yourself and people you interact with.

I don’t claim to be the best in the world but I do better now than before. I’ve also seen students and coaching clients do it.

I found the pattern goes like this:

First you try the  exercises and get to experience what knowing someone’s passions gives you. For example, from another person’s environment, beliefs, and behaviors—what you can see—you can figure out their emotions. You sense that you would feel the same ones in their situation. If you imagine their situation you can almost feel those emotions. It’s easier to sense strong emotions in others like passion over subtle nuanced ones, so you start there. It feels good to pick up new skills, and they help you lead and be led.

Next that practice becomes natural. You find it helps you understand and work with people when you understand more about them, particularly their motivations, which means their emotions.

Eventually not sensing their emotions becomes uncomfortable. You have skills to learn another person’s emotions through their behavior and communication. You sense an emptiness and lack of understanding when interacting with someone on something important and you don’t know their motivations and emotions.

With experience you also pick up increasingly subtle and nonverbal signs about their state. Empathy and compassion become second nature.

You also notice patterns since people have that many important motivations, drives, problems, etc. Since they don’t often share these things, protecting their vulnerabilities, you seem intuitive when you read them.

Your relationships and projects become based less on just what you talk about and more on the meaning behind what you communicate. You don’t have to try to understand people’s emotions. You do it because it feels natural and you find it helps your relationships.

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