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Bridging the Gap: How Empathy Can Improve Communication and Build Bridges

Updated: Feb 12

Communication is an essential part of our private and business lives. It allows us to express our thoughts, feelings, and ideas to others, and it helps us connect with people. However, effective communication is not only about what we say but also how we say it. If you want to become better at communication, you need to know how to be empathetic in your communication.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is a crucial skill that can help you build strong relationships, prevent and resolve conflict and improve your communication with others. Below are some practical tips on how to become more empathetic in your communication.


Why is empathy important in communication?

Empathy is essential in communication because it helps you connect with others on a deeper level. When you show empathy toward others, you show that you care about their feelings and opinions and respect them as human beings. This, in turn, helps build trust and rapport between you and the other person.


Empathy is also crucial in conflict resolution. If you can see things from the other person's perspective, you can better understand their concerns and find common ground. This can lead to a more peaceful and productive resolution of the conflict.


How can you communicate empathetically?


Active listening

Active listening is one of the most critical skills you must have to become more empathetic in communication. When you actively listen, you pay attention to what the other person is saying without interrupting or judging them. You listen not only to what and how something is said, but ask what is meant. This helps the other person feel heard and understood, which is a crucial part of empathy.


Example of active listening:

Person A says to Person B, "You are always being nasty to me."


A response from person B might be: "That's not true," or "That's because you are being nasty to me."


The problem is that Person B, does not yet know exactly what Person A's problem is. Is he "always annoying," has something specific happened, or is there a misunderstanding somewhere?


Person B is better off saying and asking, "Sorry this comes across that way, but would you like to explain exactly what you mean?"


Chances are person A would come back with a response such as: "Well you sometimes just grab a cup of coffee for yourself and sometimes forget to ask me if I want a drink too."


Put yourself in their shoes

Another way to become more empathetic in communication is to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Try to see things from their perspective and imagine how they feel. Even if you think another person's opinion or thought is nonsense. This can help you understand their point of view and respond more empathetically without having to agree.


Use "I" statements

When communicating with others, it is important to use "I" statements rather than "you" statements. "I" statements focus on your feelings and experiences, while "you" statements can come across as accusatory or judgmental. For example, instead of saying, "You always make me angry," say, "I feel angry when this happens."


Example of non-empathetic communication:

Person A: "You're always so negative. Can't you be happy for once?"

Person B: "I can't help how I feel. You don't understand what I'm going through."

In this scenario, Person A uses a "you" statement, which can come across as accusatory and judgmental. This likely makes Person B feel defensive and unheard, which can lead to further conflict.


Example of empathetic communication:

Person A: "I see you are feeling down today. Is there anything I can do to help?"

Person B: "Thanks for asking. I just have a lot on my mind lately and it's hard to stay positive."


In this scenario, Person A uses an "I" statement that focuses on their own feelings and experiences. This helps Person B feel heard and understood, which can help build trust and rapport. In addition, Person A shows curiosity and asks questions, which can help him understand Person B's perspective and respond in a more empathetic way.


Practice nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions and body language, can also play an important role in empathy. When communicating with others, pay attention to their nonverbal cues and respond appropriately. For example, if someone looks sad, you can show empathy by giving them a sympathetic look or offering a comforting touch.

Show curiosity and ask questions


Showing curiosity and asking questions can help you become more empathetic in your communication. When you ask questions, you show that you are interested in the other person and their experiences. This can help you understand them better and respond more empathetically.


Avoid making assumptions

Assuming you know how someone else feels or what they are thinking can lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings. Instead, try to avoid making assumptions and ask for clarification if you are unsure.


Practice active empathy

Active empathy is the process of intentionally trying to understand and share the feelings of others. To practice active empathy, imagine yourself in the other person's situation and try to feel what they are feeling. This can help you respond more empathetically and build stronger bonds with others.

Conclusion 

Empathy is a critical skill for effective communication. By learning how to become more empathetic in your communication, you can build stronger relationships, handle conflict more effectively, and connect with others on a deeper level. By actively listening, putting yourself in the other person's shoes, using "I" statements, practicing nonverbal communication, showing curiosity and asking questions, avoiding assumptions, and practicing active empathy, you can improve your empathic communication skills and become a better communicator overall.


FAQs


Can empathy be taught?

Yes, empathy can be learned. Although some people have a natural aptitude for empathy, anyone can develop this skill with practice and effort. By following the tips mentioned above and making an effort to understand others, you can become more empathetic in your communication.


What are some common barriers to empathy?

Some common barriers to empathy are:

  1. Preconceived notions and prejudices: If you have preconceived ideas about a person or group of people, it can be difficult to see things from their perspective.

  2. Emotional blocks: If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, it can be challenging to connect with others on an emotional level.

  3. Lack of self-awareness: If you are unaware of your own thoughts and feelings, it can be difficult to understand those of others.

  4. Lack of practice: Like any skill, empathy requires practice to develop.


How can I improve my nonverbal communication skills?

To improve your nonverbal communication skills, try the following:

  1. Pay attention to your own nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, and how they may be perceived by others.

  2. Practice mirroring the nonverbal cues of others to show empathy and build rapport.

  3. Use appropriate tone, volume, and pace when speaking.

  4. Avoid distracting behaviors, such as fidgeting or checking your phone, when communicating with others.




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