No, I’m not insulted at all when people call me sensitive.  Feeling things deeply is my super power.  I’m an empathetic badass.

Empathy is the ability to understand and care about someone else’s situation or emotional state even if you haven't experienced it yourself. It's putting yourself in their shoes. There are also 'levels’ of empathy – it’s not that you've either got it or not. Empathy helps us relate to others and see how others think about the world.

Relationships are based on people understanding and supporting each other – whether it’s an intimate relationship, a friendship, family, socially, at work or at school. This means empathy plays a huge part in ALL our relationships

Here are three tips to train your empathy muscles

  1. Ask questions! If you want to understand someone’s experience or circumstance, start with the ol’, “What’s up? …How you doing? …Tell me about what’s going on”
  2. Believe people when they tell you they feel a certain way AND let them know you believe them. Often when someone says, “That is really offensive” our first response is, “No it’s not…”. But for that person, with their life experiences (not yours) it is offensive and hurtful. 
  3. Fully put yourself in their position. Whether they’re a different gender, sexuality, race, age, education/employment status – whatever – imagine walking in their shoes in as many ways as you can. Rather than asking “How would I feel if someone said/did that to me?” ask “How would I feel if someone said/did that to me… if I was THEM?” They are two very different questions.

Picachu with large arm muscles

What're some examples?

What does the phrase “Please board the plane using the rear steps” mean to you? Now, what would it mean if you were wheelchair-bound?

How about, “Australia Day celebrates the settlement of Australia”? Try to imagine you’re an Indigenous Australian hearing that.

“You kick like a girl” sounds very different depending on your gender.

Without empathy we can be quick to judge other people harshly, and less likely to help everyone around us have a good time. Without empathy it’s hard to have genuine respect for others or their opinions, and a lack of respect can lead to animosity or even hatred.Empathy helps us all be that little bit nicer, little bit more patient and much less likely to be, well, a douche. 

So, practice those empathy skills!!