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Empathy is a way of relating to others and understanding them. The biggest mistake people make with empathy is assuming they know someone. Most people try to categorize and judge others instantly. Unfortunately, the majority of people will cover up who they really are to suit their purpose. Which means your tendency to judge them right away instead of trying to understand will make you mistake the mask for reality.
Simply put, you will misunderstand people and can get hurt in the future because you did not take the time to form empathy. Mike learned this at a young age when he started a business with his best friend. At first, things were going well. Unfortunately, it did not take long before they started getting into arguments about the future of the business. Mike wanted to expand the business and improve the product while his friend wanted everything to stay the same.
The problem was that Mike assumed his friend was a visionary like him when they started the business. If he had taken the time to actually understand his friend, he could have avoided the whole problem. Mike ended up losing a friend and the possibility of having a successful business with the right partner. That is why we must let go of our tendency to judge and categorize people right away and instead try to listen.
The first tip:
Here is one way you can do it. Most people like to talk about themselves in conversations. This time reverse the position and try to make the other person talk about themselves. And while doing so, listen to learn, not to reply. The only way you will get to connect with people on a deeper level is by having conversations where you actually try to listen without the intent to reply. One more thing, never assume you share the same values and morals with the other person.
Each person you meet is like an undiscovered country. When you are flexible and open-minded, you will be more than surprised by what you learn about them. In fact, developing empathy will also improve your creativity.
Mike, as mentioned in the story above, had trouble with his first business partner. Turns out, whenever Mike met his best friend, who also became his first business partner, he never properly listened. Every time, Mike tried to talk about himself and what he wanted. Which prevented effective communication and empathy. That is why moving forward, Mike started to actually listen to others and saw how his whole perspective changed.
The second tip:
We all have the tendency to blame the circumstances when we make mistakes. But when others make mistakes, we see the mistake as a character flaw. With an empathic attitude, you must first consider the circumstances that might have made a person do what they did, giving them the same benefit of the doubt as you give yourself.
As we mentioned above, Mike had problems with his business partner, which ruined the business and their friendship that had lasted for 10 years. Looking back at things, Mike could see that his friend was afraid of change and was insecure about his ability to sell. Which explained why he refused to grow the business.
That is how Mike learned he should attribute problems to circumstances and past programming instead of directly blaming the other person. If he had tried to establish empathy, things could have been better.
Book: Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene.
Notice: The stories above are fictional