If I had to name the one catalyst for positive change in the world, I’d say empathy. It is the foundation on which every authentic relationship is built and the key to a deep and meaningful connection.
Being able to empathize with others—putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes—helps people feel not only accepted, but truly heard and understood. When we are going through a challenging time in our lives, having the support of someone who can feel or identify with your pain helps tremendously with the healing process.
In Roman Kryznaric’s new book, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How To Get It, he explains how to recognize our empathetic potential and utilize it to make a difference in the world. One section in his book that particularly stood out to me is this excerpt on the six habits of highly empathic people:
Habit 1: Switch On Your Empathic Brain
Shifting our mental frameworks to recognize that empathy is at the core of human nature and that it can be expanded throughout our lives.
Making a conscious effort to step into other people’s shoes—including those of our “enemies”—to acknowledge their humanity, individuality, and perspectives.
Habit 3: Seek Experiential Adventures
Exploring lives and cultures that contrast with our own through direct immersion, empathic journeying, and social cooperation.
Habit 4: Practice the Craft of Conversation
Fostering curiosity about strangers and radical listening and taking off our emotional masks.
Habit 5: Travel in Your Armchair
Transporting ourselves into other people’s minds with the help of art, literature, film, and online social networks.
Habit 6: Inspire a Revolution
Generating empathy on a mass scale to create social change and extending our empathy skills to embrace the natural world.
Excerpted from Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It by Roman Krznaric. © 2014 by Roman Krznaric. Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House.