Empathy is another key to gaining emotional intelligence. Some people seem to be born empathetic while others spend all their time angry and always finding the negative in others.
Having empathy means you’re able to mentally put yourself on the opposite side of a situation and understand the other person’s emotions. It’s a skill that helps you connect with others in a positive way and also helps you feel good about yourself.
One way to make sure you add empathy to your quest for emotional intelligence is to listen – truly listen. That means you’re not looking off into the distance, checking your phone or thinking about something else when another person is talking to you.
Enter the conversation with another person by repeating what they said. This tells them that you were listening and understand their emotions about a situation. Practice withholding judgement about a person until you know more about them.
Look for ways that you and another person are similar rather than judging them on a first-time basis. That familiarity will help you become more open with the person and better able to understand where he’s coming from.
Take note if you’ve used catch phrases that show your prejudices. Phrases such as terrorists or gangsters come from your own prejudices and the only way to overcome them is to challenge yourself to see if the label is true or just a bias from your emotions on the subject.
Try to understand why you think that a single religion makes people terrorists or that all police officers have bad intentions. Know deep within that just because you think it’s a fact, doesn’t mean that it is.
Educate yourself about your prejudices and note the misinformation you might have that’s keeping you from being empathetic toward a group of people. Also, use your imagination to practice empathy toward others.
Try to imagine the suffering that others might be going through. The homeless on the street aren’t all mentally ill. Some have simply fallen on hard times and can’t pull themselves up for various reasons.
Imagine that you’re living on the streets and think about how you’d feel when you’re jeered at or have to sleep in the cold or eat from a garbage can. Your imagination can take you deep into your own psyche and help you to become more empathetic to others who live differently than you.
Practice treating people with respect, no matter how their philosophies differ from yours. Rather than stereotyping others, treat them as individuals and let them know that you recognize their importance.
Building empathy within your emotional intelligence works best if you’re able to be open with others. It’s a very difficult thing to do for some, but after you get the knack of it, you’ll find that your connection is deeper and you feel more satisfied with yourself.
Read. Research has found that people who read (especially fiction) have a better understanding and are more empathic towards others than those who seldom read. Building your emotional intelligence by practicing empathy is an important step in realizing your true potential.