5 Actionable Tips to Developing More Empathy

5 Actionable Tips to Developing More Empathy

We’re greatly influenced by our networks and relationships. In our relationship with others, we come across people with different backgrounds and beliefs and this can affect our behaviour towards them. In this article, I would be showing you 5 ways to develop more empathy for others.

What is Empathy?

Have you ever had a situation where you understand a person’s feelings or emotions as if they were yours?  That is exactly what empathy is.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined empathy as “The action of understanding or being sensitive to the feelings, experience or thoughts of another person”.

Also, it is the ability to understand how a person feels, their perspective on things, and view their thoughts as though they were yours.

It is easier to understand how you feel than that of others. An empathic person is concerned about the well-being of others. When someone talks to you, your ability to relate with such a person speaks of how empathic you are.

Why is Empathy Important?

Empathy is necessary for developing and maintaining social cooperation. When you understand how others feel and can relate with them, you build a relationship that is conducive to the development of others and yours.

Being empathic also helps build healthy relationships with your friends. A lot of friendships and relationships have ended because one party does not understand how the other feels.

When you can put yourself in another person’s shoes, you’re able to understand their actions and respond accurately to their behaviour. It also makes you a better person to relate to and can improve your relationship with others.

As humans, we all have experiences and emotions that affect or shape our behaviour. Because of these experiences, we are sometimes limited by our own perspective and may not understand others. This can really affect our relationship with people around us.

However, when you use empathy to understand why a person acts or thinks the way they do, you might get a better understanding of how to respond to their actions.

While empathy can be inborn, it can also be learned. Here are 5 ways to develop empathy:

Ways to Develop Empathy

1. Listen to People

To develop empathy, you have to converse with people to recognize what they feel or think and pay attention to their thoughts.

It is no new knowledge that communication increases the bond between individuals. You can only get to know a person better when you talk to them rather than assume from afar.

When talking to a person, they usually give out information about their thought or feelings, and most times, we tend to overlook these subtle hints because we do not listen.

Over time, I’ve learned that people engage in conversation to talk rather than listen. Compare these conversations:

A: Hello B, how’re you doing?

B: I had a stressful day today and my headaches.

A: Omo, it’s not just you o. Work today was stressful and my head, my back ached. (Typical of Nigerians to turn a statement into a battle of tragedy)

X: Hello Y, how are you doing today?

Y: I had a stressful day at work and my headaches.

X: Oh dear. Do you want to talk about what’s stressing you?

[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”fnbnzrfms9″ question=”Now judge between these two conversations, which is more empathic?” opened=”0″][/wpdiscuz-feedback]

Obviously, the second conversation shows X as being more empathic. Rather than compare their tragedies, X was concerned about the welfare of Y.

Cultivate the habit of listening to people before responding. People talk with emotions and sometimes your inability to perceive them can make you seem uncaring.

2. Examine Your Bias

One of the 5 ways to develop empathy is by examining one’s bias. Let’s be honest, we are all biased. It can be hidden or obvious, but we have at one time or the other, treated someone unfairly.

Examining your biasness is a great way to develop empathy. The irony of this is, sometimes we do not realize how bias we are until we have taken action.

The first step to overcoming your biases is by acknowledging them. Understanding that as humans, being biased is a natural part of our lives can help you decide steps to overcome it. Secondly, taking steps to work on your biases can help you develop more empathy towards people. Constantly questioning your character can help you overcome your biases. Judge the actions you take and how you respond to people to put yourself in check.

Listen to the feedback people give you. It can help you work on your character more.

3. Grow Your Curiosity

Honestly, I find it extremely difficult to socialize with people. I used to say “If God gives me basic social interaction skills, I’d be a superhuman”. Ironically, I have never regretted asking questions about people – it has only helped me develop socially.

Grow your curiosity about people, groups, cultures, and religions by asking questions and conversing with people from different cycles of life. It will help you stop judging people from your pre-conceived idea of them and build more empathy for them.

Sometimes, to understand how people feel, you have to understand where they are coming from. Your idea of who a person is can block you from developing a healthy relationship with that person.

Don’t stay in your comfort zone. Spend time with people. Ask questions about their knowledge, cultures, and interests.

Be open to exploring new places. The more you explore, the better your knowledge of people and the more empathic you become.

4. Reading Widely Can Help You Develop More Empathy

Oh! My favourite tip to developing more empathy is through reading – fiction, nonfiction, biographies, history, whatever it is that catches your interests.

Reading gives you a glimpse of the diversity of the different backgrounds and experiences people have. It increases your perspective on human interaction and can help you develop more empathy.

One book that has shaped my perspective is “The Joys of Motherhood” by Buchi Emecheta. It opened my eyes to the pains and sacrifices mothers go through for the sake of raising children. It helped me sympathize with African moms and made me love my mother so much more.

Reading books, journals, newsletters, and online content expands your perspective about people.

5. Associate With Others By Working on Projects Together

Working together on projects with people is one way to develop empathy for others.

When individuals work together on projects, it can help heal the differences and divisions shared between them and foster social cooperation.

This is why I admire the communal relationship among villages before the coming of the Europeans. Some sort of brotherhood existed among kinsmen where everyone worked on each other’s lands to help cultivate crops for the village’s benefit.

Today, there are various community projects you can work on to help develop communities. Most of these projects are sponsored by international organizations, non-governmental organizations and student organizations.

Whatever project you wish to work on, you’re taking a step towards developing empathy for others.


The above 5 ways to develop empathy cannot be overemphasized. Empathy can be developed like any other skill. Developing empathy is necessary for building healthy relationships and promoting cohesion among people.

The conversations you have with people can tell how empathic you are. Paying attention to the feelings of others and putting yourself in their shoes helps you see things from their perspective and gives you a better understanding.

Keep an open mind by working on your biases and reading books to give you a broader point of view of the diverse backgrounds and cultures we have in the world.

By the way, my favourite authors for starters are Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie. If you have favourites, let me know in the comment section.

8 Books that Changed my Life

8 Books that Changed my Life

Reading is not only a way to get knowledge but also to develop cognitive abilities, and learn the ways of the society. Personally, reading provides an escape from the harsh realities of life. As a shy introvert, reading is how I get knowledge about how the outside world operates. But there are several books that have changed my life and I think they will change yours too.

Books that Changed My Life

1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

Sean Covey is the son of renowned author Stephen Covey who wrote a worldwide popular book called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” While his father’s book was targeted at grown-ups, Sean’s book is interesting to the teen mind.

With entertaining comic drawings, real-life stories, and friendly talk, it is fun and easy to read. The message of the book centres on personal development.

As the title implies, it teaches teens the habits that will ensure their success. The book is on themes, treating each habit separately and in detail. It is a book that has taught me very much about how to take the right path.

2. Tell Me Why (Revised and Updated) by Chancellor Press

This book served several purposes in my life. It is like an encyclopedia that answered the most basic scientific knowledge that everyone is required to know. Why was the sky blue? Why do volcanoes erupt? Also, why is time different in different countries?

I remember when I was 14, I had waited for my dad to come home just to ask about rainbows, and the next day he, brought me back this book and just the size overwhelmed me. But as I opened it, I immediately got engulfed. I did not need to wait for my dad anymore as I had my own little answer book.

Till today, the book has a special spot on my desk as one of the books that changed my life.

3. 17 Secrets of High-Flying Students by Fela Durotoye

This is one of those books that had a pretty cover that made me interested. I shelved this book for months after I got it. It wasn’t until one day when I was really bored that I started to read it. I am not the fastest of readers but I finished this book in a day. It was that good. It was easy and fun to read, colourful without being childish, and straight to the point.

Furthermore, it had real people stories that did not sound like a motivational speech. It mainly discussed how to navigate through high school successfully, managing friends, family, classes, expectations, and your own health.

It was a very inspiring book.

4. Why Men Marry Bitches by Sherry Argov

This is one of the books that changed my life. The book is mainly for the ladies and I have seen it on many personal bookshelves. Sherry, a woman herself, writes in a uniquely intimate way where she describes how most women are and what men really want in a woman. A nice woman does not get Mr Right, a smart woman does.

In a world where love is hard to find, it teaches females how to make themselves more endearing to the opposite gender without compromise.

It was truly an eye-opener and is highly recommended.

5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

As much as I love the story in this book, it changed my life mainly due to the writer’s expert use of English. True, his English was less sophisticated than that of Wole Soyinka, but he passed amazing messages in his novels. He made me realize that to be good did not mean that you had to use gigantic words and that simple words used in the right way would get the message across just as beautifully.

Related: Things I Learned Too Late in Life

He was one of the main inspirations behind my love for writing.

6. Bari and Biba

Bari and Biba as one of the books that changed my life is the common name for the book ‘Al-Arabiyyatul Jadeed fi Nigeria.’ Anyone who wants to go to a school to attain Islamic knowledge of the Qur’an and Hadith (Islamiyya) should know this book. It is a simple grade course in Arabic where it teaches you basic things to know in the Arabic Language.

This book is entertaining, illustrated, and interesting to read. It made me feel like learning a language was not so difficult and pushed me towards learning more.

7. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you have found that you are not very sociable and don’t make friends easily then this book is for you. Carnegie teaches, in easy words, how to navigate your way through the web of making friends. He teaches how to make friends honestly and successfully while also illustrating the importance of good friendships in your life.

This book is one of the reasons I have as many good friends as I do today and I will always remember that.

8. Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

When I picked up this book, I was 12 and thought it was a storybook. For a few pages, it was. But then I got further in and my 12-year-old brain got bored so I dumped it. I revisited the book 5 years later and I am glad I did. It was a major eye-opener for me.

The message of the book was the consistency of change. It taught me that no matter what you did, the change would find you. It does not matter how well you plan your life or how many binders you use for projects; life was not a tame lake but a raging ocean.

Not only did this book introduce me to this scary truth, but it also taught me how to handle the change and make the most of it. The fact that someone moved your cheese does not mean you should put your life on hold just to chase after a cheese thief.


There are several other books such as Lord of the Rings, Purple Hibiscus, Ben Carsons’ books, Rich Dad; Poor Dad, etc. that have made a massive impact in my life and would be a great read.

I would love to know what books changed your life so leave a comment and enjoy.