4 Steps to Developing and Enhancing Empathy

A 2001 study (Rudman, Ashmore and Gary) showed that students who participated in a class on prejudice and conflict resolution experienced a significantly greater reduction in their levels of bias (both conscious and unconscious), compared to a control group who attended a course on research methods.

“This study illustrates promising results that our prejudices are malleable and ethnocultural empathy is attainable when the biases are thoughtfully and carefully addressed.”

The cultivation of empathy, defined as “a psychological identification that allows you to experience the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another”, is critical to bridging racial divides.

4 Methods to Develop Empathy

1. Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Expose yourself to visually and emotionally stimulating stories that depict an accurate representation of the lives and struggles of others. Movies provide an excellent opportunity to do this. After viewing such a film, reflect on what you saw and felt; then either discuss your insights with others or journal about your feelings.

2. Lend a Hand

Step outside of your comfort zone and volunteer alongside people of various backgrounds and races. The charitable goal will act as common ground and bond you with the others in your group, and working in tandem will allow opportunities for reliance, respect, and support.

3. Listen Up!

Actively listen to others while paying attention to their emotional state and fluctuations. Without interrupting, notice pauses during their stories that allow you to verbally mirror back what you heard them say. If you can personally relate to what they are sharing, make yourself vulnerable and share your own experience with them.

4. Embrace Growth

Conduct introspective inventories. Do a self-evaluation. Take advantage of online tools, such as The Implicit Association test.

Help is Available

Most importantly, never be embarrassed to ask for professional help in developing and cultivating empathy.

If you live near my practice — Thriveworks Counseling and Coaching in Peachtree City, Georgia — we’re here to help. Call 678-383-1210 to schedule an appointment.

Or, if you life elsewhere, you can click here to find a list of Thriveworks practices across the country that can help you practice and explore empathy.

Has empathy played a role in your life? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!