Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they are feeling. 

What are the benefits of empathy? 

Being empathetic is an important and vital skill for volunteers supporting others. Being able to understand the needs of those around you and have a clear understanding of the perception you create with the way you are to others will enhance your communication skills.  

To feel connected to others is hugely important for our wellbeing. It is the basis of human relationships and helps us to feel valued, loved, and cared for. Studies show that those who feel connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Building strong connections can increase feelings of happiness and self-worth. 

Tips for improving empathy

  1. Showing empathy can be just a simple statement such as “I appreciate that it is challenging” or “That must be difficult for you”. 
  2. Be curious about other people’s experiences. Asking thoughtful questions instead of making assumptions will help you to understand their point of view. 
  3. Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how it would feel to you. Thinking about someone’s lived experience can deepen your understanding of them.  
  4. Listen with your full attention, see our active listening guide for more information. 
  5. Practice mindfulness in your own life, this enables you to be more present with what is going on around you and is a key skill in empathy. 

Empathy enables us to establish rapport with another person, making them feel that they are being heard. Having empathy will help you to understand and read the requirements of the people you are supporting.