The Sheer Power Of Empathy In Our Day To Day Lives

Learning to genuinely empathize with others can gain you influence and get you to where you want to be. 04.02.24

photo of two heads with flowers sprouting out their tops

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Why Is Empathy So Powerful?

A genuine "How is your day going?" can go a really long way. My wife most of the time wants to kill me when we are out in public. I'll be ordering a coffee and within the next 2 minutes I'm finding out me and the guy at the counter are both are into the same 1980's Japanese jazz movement. She'll roll her eyes and ask "Seriously who has the time for this? Leave that poor guy alone." But I'm honestly interested. People are fascinating to me. What's the point of life if not shared? I love asking questions and learning about other peoples' interests. The fact that every person is unique fuels my fascination.

Empathetic Listeners More Often Get Their Way

What type of person are you? Are you the type that genuinely listens? Or are you that type that is always waiting for your turn to speak? Do you ask questions? Or do you honestly not care? I mean, listen, I get it. We all have a lot of shit we're dealing with on a day to day basis: Work, relationships, groceries, bills, - it's a seemingly endless list. Who has the time to actually care about what someone else is going through? Why should we care? Why should we take the time? It's because empathy is a quiet superpower.

a guy consoling his girlfriend

By definition empathy is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another".

So what makes this so important? The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and truly feel for them provides a bridge between us, it allows a deeper connection to be established. It enables trust, affirmation and a mutual understanding. For me personally I'm much more likely to be persuaded into doing something if someone can make an attempt to see where I'm coming from. Otherwise I'm most likely to say "piss off" because it seems as if that person genuinely doesn't care. Now it should be noted that there is a fine line between empathy and manipulation. One could definitely argue that some might be pretending to care only to get their way. But I'm talking about the real thing. It should also be noted that too much empathy can be draining and have the opposite effect. So there is a balance that needs to hold steady.

Leadership and Empathy Are Mutually Inclusive

Surely the crew on a ship needs to feel connected to their captain. Atleast enough to follow him out to sea (potentially to their deaths). Any leader who lacks empathy will ultimately fail. Leadership requires a connection between the leader and their followers. We establish a deeper understanding of one another, align our beliefs through sharing with one another. If it's a one sided conversation then that's not happening. Everyone wants to feel like their input or story makes a difference. In the grand scheme of things we are all a speck of dust in time, so naturally we want to be validated. When a leader wants to get others to follow, they have to show they care. They have to listen and be able to connect. It's never a single person effort that accomplishes great things, it's always a team effort. By validating other's input, wants, wishes, and dreams we are much more incentivized to work together towards a single goal.

People Want To Believe That They Make a Difference, That Their Lives Matter.

Think of the last time you had to dial the customer service number. Imagine being that representative waking up and thinking "Gee I really hope someone yells at me today. I hope someone makes me feel like my life is meaningless because they need someone to blame." Put yourself in their shoes, they literally are just the middle man. Chances are they aren't waking up that way. It's funny the times when we need help are the times we are most likely to be less understanding. Our judgment is clouded by frustration. If we can learn to empathize though, people will be much more willing to help us out. And in turn that customer service representative might actually feel like they are making a difference in someone else's life.

a fox with rather large ears showing his ability to listen and hear everything

People want to be embraced, they crave genuine connections.

We are all living in the digital era. Never before have we been more disconnected and connected at the same time. We are all in this existential crisis together, wondering what's the point to all of this. Connections with other individuals go much further than you really think.

I think we can all agree that rude people suck. Nobody enjoys dealing with them. Nor does anyone enjoy a one-sided conversation. With a little effort, empathy can be learned. Active listening can be practiced. And over time you will see that by embracing this, other people will in turn embrace you, and naturally help you get to where you want to be.