Empathy is a skill we can choose to practice. Only through deliberate practice can we improve our skills.

When incorporating a new skill into your practice, start with the easiest possible version of the skill you’re learning, then progress onto more difficult challenges.

Level 1. Care just enough. Learn about people by asking them questions. Collect stories, and refer back to the stories to show you were paying attention. STFU and listen. Don’t simply wait for your turn to speak. Listen to what’s being said to you. Think about what’s being said to you, from the perspective of the person saying it. And when you can understand the story from the other perspective, respond.

Level 2. Uncover motivators. Unpack why a person behaves the way they do. Invest some time in learning a “thinking strategies” program, such as Myers Briggs, or a tool such as de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. Using known strategies, see if you can unpack how someone will respond in situations.

Level 3. Complain from the other’s perspective. Use your imagination to complain about yourself as if from the other person’s perspective. Uncover the faults, and strengths others may see within you.

Choose to practice empathy — only through deliberate practice can we improve our shared understanding of one another.

Emma Jane Westby // @emmajanehw