Empathy. Gratitude. Mindfulness
What does it mean to you?
It seems like everyone is talking about positive mental attitudes these days.
Here at The Present Finder we have been spreading the gifting love since 2000, so we know a thing or two about making people smile. People often ask us "what makes a gift truly special?" and you may be surprised to hear that it's rarely the item in the box.
Actually, more often then not it's 'Empathy', that special bond of connection between gifter and giftee that makes the perfect present. So if you are looking to practice empathy as part of your daily life, here are 7 suggestions to help you become a more empathetic person
1. Stop. And Listen
Empathy is the ability to step into someone else's shoes and feel what it's like to live the life of another. So if you want to practice empathy, you'll need to practice the habit of deep listening. To do this, you'll need to slow down and stop what you are doing and become conscious of the world around you.
By tuning out of your own experience you create the mental space to focus on, appreciate and listen to another person. Once you have created this space it becomes easier when they speak to focus on the latent content behind there words. This is the first step towards embracing empathy in your everyday lifestyle.
2. Cultivate Curiosity
To be truly empathetic, you must first be curious. Curiosity is something that comes naturally when we are children but is gradually discouraged as we grow up. But it shouldn't be. To be curious about the world around you is to see the world through the eyes of a child once more, and to see the world as others see it also.
Empathic people have an insatiable curiosity about strangers. Retaining the natural inquisitiveness of a child, they find other people more interesting than themselves. By taking an interest in other people, curiosity enables us to expand our horizons and consequentially our empathy. Try it out by making it a habit to talk to at least one new person per day, whatever your daily routine.
3. Practice The Deeper Question
We spend most of our lives on autopilot. Whether it's small talk in the office or customer service lines in the supermarket it's easy to fall into shallow conversation on a day to day basis. To avoid this, practice asking the deeper questions in conversation with others, showing genuine interest and concern for their lives, hopes, dreams and fears.
The art of the deeper question is subtle. But by remaining open and gently steering the conversation into deeper territory you'll find that people will naturally open up to you responding to your natural empathy. Once you find the skill, a little repetition will make it habitual, making all your conversations naturally more meaningful and empathetic.
4. Try A Random Act Of Kindness
All of our tips thus far have focussed on listening and words. Yet as the saying goes 'actions speak louder then words' so why not put your newfound sense of empathy into words with a random act of kindness. This could be as simple as sharing a simple cup or tea or you could spontaneously treat someone to a gift you know they would like.
Random acts of kindness are so powerful because of their complete spontaneity. Most of us associate gifting with established dates like birthdays or Christmas so having a present arrive out of the blue for no apparent reason shakes up the routine and the emotions with a disproportionate impact, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Try leaving some chocolate on a colleagues desk one morning or post someone you know an anonymous gift for an easy way to get started.
5. Make Eye Contact A Habit
Eye contact is a wonderful thing. Most of us are quick to avoid eye contact with strangers but it's one of the best ways to connect and empathise with the world around us. By making and holding eye contact with others we signal respect, kindness and honesty in all of our interactions, forming a foundation for a deeper level of communication.
Getting into the habit of using eye contact in all our interactions is a positive step on the road to living with a greater level of empathy for others. Try it out today when you order coffee from a barista or shop for groceries in the supermarket. Keep it relaxed, natural and upbeat and for optimal results be sure to offer a genuine smile wherever possible.
6. Imagine. And Visualise.
The human imagination knows no boundaries. As the saying goes, "if you can see it in your mind you can hold it in your hand" so if you want to supercharge your empathy be sure to put your imagination to work in the service of understanding and empathising with others. Try to imagine how other people live. By putting your mind to work attempting to understand someone else's life you prompt your mind to appreciate the life of another.
Deepen the impact with visualisation, try to imagine a strangers house, how they feel when they head to work in the morning, what brings them joy or makes them sad. Add detail to the picture in your mind as if you were writing a novel with them as the main character. The more you can understand another person the more your empathy for them will naturally start to grow.
7. Practice Gratitude
Lastly, practice the attitude of gratitude for others to give yourself a positive outlook on life. Actively look for opportunities to be thankful for the work of other people and how it helps you go about your day to day life. This could be as simple as taking a few moments to thank a colleague at work for their assistance in a genuine and thoughtful way.
You can also practice gratitude in the mind. As you walk down the street, try to imagine the people who have laid the road infront of you and mentally offer your thanks for their assistance. Look around you and try to imagine the people who have created the objects in your environment, making mental notes to thank them for their creative work.
These are just 7 suggestions to add a little empathy into your daily life. Remember, empathy not only improves the lives of others but also is scientifically proven to increase your own sense of personal happiness and satisfaction, so learning to be more empathetic is certainly a worthwhile aim for all involved.