Empathy Exercise

Empathy – the ability to understand others’ feelings – is key to communication skills, emotional intelligence and deeper relationships. Anyone can develop a greater capacity for empathy. Begin with these simple steps:

Step 1: Relax and focus on your breath

  • Pay attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale, fully but easily, three times.
  • Notice how your body supports itself as you settle into your posture, whether you’re sitting, standing or lying down.
  • Relax your muscles as you gently close your eyes.

Step 2: Focus on someone else

  • Imagine you are sitting or standing with another person.
  • Imagine giving that person your full attention.
  • Notice not only what the other person is saying, but also his/her facial expressions, posture, body language and movements.

Step 3: Widen your awareness

  • Maintaining your observations of the other person, expand your awareness to include ambient sounds, sights, smells and other sensations.
  • Observe the other person’s actions (for example, are their eyes darting? Are they checking their watch?) without judging or otherwise reacting to them.

Step 4: Include yourself

  • Maintaining your awareness of the other person and your surroundings, notice and accept your own thoughts and emotions, too – without judging them or acting on them.

Step 5: Reflect and expand

  • Repeat these simple steps in imaginary encounters and actual ones as an easy and natural way to increase your capacity for empathy.