Empathy is described as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. That is you’re able to identify with them by seeing and understanding the world through their eyes.

It’s an important life skill and especially important for business owners that interact and do business with people from all backgrounds and all walks of life.

But how do you do it? How do you put yourself in the shoes of another and learn how to see the world through their eyes?

I’m going to tell you how with my top tips for being more empathetic.

Learn the skill then practice

Empathy is a learned behaviour, it’s a skill that needs to be developed and honed.

The ability to understand how people feel may not come easy to you so practising is only going to help. It doesn’t matter if it’s in business, your love life or with people in general, empathy is a useful skill which will help you to become a better human being. Learn the skill and practice the actions laid out below.

Talk to new people

Talk with new people and ask them how they are, how they’re feeling and how things are going. Go deeper than the surface questions of normal conversation and actually get to the bottom of how they’re really feeling.

Obviously, there needs to be a certain level of awareness here and not pushing too much but as Jodi Halpern once said “The core of empathy is curiosity” so go out and speak to new people to practice this skill.

Speak with your neighbours or strangers on the train and practice the art of actually being present and engaged in a conversation, learn how to listen and understand and see their point of view.

Open yourself to new experiences

In many situations, we can find it hard to be empathetic as we truly don’t understand what someone is going through.

If you’ve never been marginalised it can be hard to understand how someone that has is feeling.

By going outside of your comfort zone and mixing with different people you can start to see things from their point of view.

Embrace different religions, different cultures and different sexualities and start to look at life from their side to see how they feel about situations and how it makes them react.

This may be as simple as following a more diverse group on social media or it could be as much as going to different meetings, social spots or events. But go and experience how different people live and truly see what life is like through their eyes.

Be honest with yourself 

We are all biased in different ways and the first step to truly being empathetic with someone else is to admit that this bias exists.

By being honest with yourself and addressing these feelings, you can start to overcome them and work towards a deeper understanding of other people.

Acknowledging bias doesn’t mean you have to stick to those beliefs, but it does allow you to confront and move past them.

Actions speak louder than words 

Once you’ve acknowledged your bias and you’ve started to understand why you may feel and think like you do, start to take action to help others.

Saying that you understand and emphasise with a group is one thing but actually taking action to show you support them and understand them is another. Put your money where your mouth is and show you do understand them by being on their side.

Help others, fight for others and support them where you can, remember, actions speak louder than words.

Read up

I’m a big advocate for real-life experiences because as great as books are, they don’t always replicate taking action; however, when it comes to empathy, reading up and learning about a situation is a great idea.

Whether it’s a marginalised group or the plight of someone less fortunate than yourself, it could even be a disgruntled customer unhappy with a service, by reading up and opening your mind you can start to get a better understanding of how and why people feel like they do and start to see things from their point of view.

Be open to change

Finally one of the best ways you can learn to become more empathetic is to be open-minded and be open to change.

Although you may not have the first-hand experience of how the other person is feeling, by being open-minded and being open to change you can put yourself in their shoes, see the argument from the other side and be able to look at things differently. Empathy isn’t about being right or wrong or having the upper hand, it’s about seeing the other persons point of view and understanding how they feel.

Empathy is a useful skill in all walks of life, whether doing business with another country, having a difficult conversation with an employee or just being able to understand your customers wants and needs, but by practising this skill and improving your own abilities, you can start to become a better, more understanding and more empathetic person.