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.

Why Parents Need To Understand Child Psychology

Why Parents Need To Understand Child Psychology

Yara manyan gobe

This is a popular northern Nigerian saying meaning children are the leaders of tomorrow. You ask a child what he wants to become in the future and he replies with “I want to be a footballer”. This is okay because, at that stage, the child is replying to you out of pure passion and adoration for the profession and not because he understands what it will truly mean for him to become a footballer. But that does not necessarily mean you should throw what he is saying out the window. Here is why.

It is true that at the earliest phase of childhood, children are driven more by emotions rather than logic. Generally, a newborn baby will cry when he is hungry, sleepy, or sick. Thus, generations of parenting have allowed parents to interpret this signal in many ways to enable them to understand what the baby actually wants. They understand that a baby may cry and rub his eyes when he is sleepy or cry and suck his own tongue when hungry. This means that children know what they want even before they are able to express it coherently.

As children grow, they begin to feel more than just hunger and sleepiness and experience emotions of joy, sorrow, fear, and surprise. As time goes on, these simple emotions evolve into more complex ones like pride, hope, confidence, guilt embarrassment, and empathy. Then it is at that stage that a child begins to develop his own unique likes, dislikes, wants, and personality in general.

It is also at that point that a child needs to learn how to manage his emotions. But this is where the problem arises as the average northern Nigerian parent is likely to be ignorant of these developments and usually ends up infringing on the child’s mental rights.

Unfortunately, a child’s mental state is very fragile, and continuous abuse of it may affect him psychologically as regards how he behaves, controls his emotions, or socializes with people in the future. Therefore, understanding why a child thinks the way he thinks and acts or reacts the way he does and acting appropriately on it will not only support his present but help in building and shaping his future self and personality based on who he actually is. This brings us to study the concept of child psychology. 

What is Child Psychology? 

Child psychology/child development is the study of subconscious and conscious childhood development. At the same time, it is the study of the psychological processes of children, their uniqueness, and their development. 

Initiated in 1840, when Charles Darwin began studying and collecting data on the growth and development of his own children, child psychology went through German psychophysiologist and American educational psychologist namely William Prayer and Stanley Hall respectively. These two put forth methods and periodicals to child psychology and education.

By the 20th century, the field of child psychology was further defined by the development of intelligence tests and the establishment of child guidance clinics. In modern child psychology today, Jean Piaget regarded as its founder, developed a theory of acquisition in children, where he described the stages of learning in childhood and characterized children’s perceptions of themselves and the world at each stage. 

Key Areas of Child Psychology

Moreover, five key areas of child psychology are outlined including development, milestones, behaviour, emotions, and socialization. Each area has its own sub-areas. Our point of focus here is ‘development’, which in this article proves to be crucial of the five.

Child development has three areas of focus namely; Physical development, Cognitive/intellectual development, and Social/emotional development. 

1. Physical Development

This refers to the physical changes a child’s body undergoes from birth and usually happens in a mean predictable manner. Usually, your child will roll his head up, roll over, crawl, walk and run.

Physical development also includes the acquisition of gross and fine motor skills which means the ability to use one’s big muscles to carry out activities like walking, and also the ability to use smaller muscles like their hands and fingers to pick up small objects or hold a spoon.

These different skills and developments of children usually occur within a specific time frame or window and are guided by developmental milestones from the first six weeks to seven years of infanthood.

2. Cognitive/Intellectual Development

This includes reasoning, imagination, language, and thought, cognitive development refers to all processes children use to gain knowledge. It is the intellectual learning and thought processes of a child, mostly influenced by genetics and environment.

Nowadays, babies show interest in their environment before they have the language to express it.

3. Social/Emotional Development

Social development deals with learning to relate to other people. It is how a child develops values, awareness, and social skills necessary to relate with people around him.

Emotional development refers to how a child feels, understands, and expresses his emotions. The emotional development of a child has a major effect on his social development because the way a child feels understands and expresses his feelings has a direct impact on how he relates with other people and gain social skills.

Social skills that children may develop include trust, friendship, conflict management, and respect. These are greatly influenced by the amount of love and affection a child receives. Failure to attain these social skills may later pose difficulty for children in creating and maintaining satisfying relationships with others in the future.

Every parent strives to their best to see their children develop physically. They are overjoyed when their child takes his first step or says his first word. Enabling a child to attain his physical development milestones has never really been a problem. However, the same cannot be said for the other two development areas.

Learning to express and regulate emotions healthy has proven difficult for many children. Therefore, in this article, the effects of understanding cognitive/intellectual development and social/emotional development of a child by parents are aspects of child development to be focused on.

This is because they are given less attention to raising children in Northern Nigeria. 

Why is Understanding Child Psychology Important?

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow yet we forget that he is someone today.

Stacia Tauscher

If you want your child to attain greatness tomorrow, believe in who he is today and make him grow. This does not involve forcing the child to be someone he is not or making him suit your needs. A child is an individual of his own and not an extension of who you are. Knowing who your child is and aiding him to be the best of himself is the way to go.

Below are a few of some of the reasons why you should understand your child’s psychology:

1. To Improve A child’s Mental Stability

Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves.

Jean Plageat

A child is one who goes through several schemas in which he explores different phenomena around him constantly learning and unlearning. At that stage, he is discovering himself and needs guidance and support more than education.

A mentally stable child is a child who has been allowed the freedom to make his own decisions and mistakes from infancy.

To allow a child freedom of mind is to improve on his self-identity and mental stability.

It is easier to build a build strong children than repair broken adults.

F Douglas

Rather than overburden and confuse your child with the manual of life which you have acquired, support your child by knowing that it is okay for him to discover, try and make mistakes or succeed on his own. Thus, watch him closely and guide him where possible.

This continuous trial and error will equip him with more understanding of his own self and deter him from developing personality disorders.

2. To build a Child’s Empathy

Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them, they remember what you are.

Jim Henson

By understanding and respecting a child’s emotional needs, you are teaching them how to respect other people’s feelings, emotions, and wishes. An empathic parent is far more likely to raise an empathic child than one who disregards the child’s feelings and gets what they want through manipulation.

Try to see and understand the world through your child’s eyes and the reason why he/she is hurting or doesn’t want to do a particular thing. That way, you make room for communication and teach your child that it is okay to not have your way all the time. This will go a long way in enhancing his emotional/social development. 

3. To Enable a Child Become Independent

To take children seriously is to value them who they are right now rather than adults in the making.

Alfie Kohn

Boost your child’s self-confidence and independence by valuing and trusting in their instincts and decisions right here and now. Otherwise, you can choose to keep seeing and treating your children as infants and not valuing them as individuals. However, it does not stop them from growing emotionally and cognitively out of the prison you have built for them.

Instinctively, your children will slowly begin to demand privacy and independence from you as they grow. If you do not give it to them, they will take it for themselves.

Value your children even when it is difficult for you and do not treat them merely as extensions of yourselves. They too require most of the things adults require even if you feel they have not financially earned it or even deserve it.

This will improve their cognitive and emotional development and boost their sense of independence to enable them to perform even if you as a parent are not there.

The more risks you allow your children to make, the better they learn to look after themselves.

Roald Dahi

 4. To Maximize a Child’s Potential

If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes learn to trust, share their feelings and grow.

Alfie Kohn.

There is no limit to what a child can achieve once you provide the right environment for him to develop. Sometimes, success is not measured by how much someone makes but by the satisfaction they are able to achieve with their own unique talent.

Every now and then, a great painter or a great lawyer arises to become a hero among others because he/she has been supported up to his full potential. I rather have the best bricklayer as a son than the worst engineer or doctor. Forget societal standards or stigma and help your child attain his full potential.

If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.

Nicolette Sowder

5. To Pass Onto the Child Better Values

What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.

Mother Theresa

They say you cannot give what you lack. In order to instil love and respect in a child, you must first give the child love and respect. Demonstrate good values to your child, help him develop physically, mentally, and socially and watch him become a great human being.

They say what you don’t know cannot hurt you, but guess what, children nowadays start knowing at a very young age. They may not be actively conscious of it but they are aware of all the damages being done to them at an early age and one day they will remember. Also, they will remember but it will be too late to do anything then. So cut the toxic trend and understand your children today.


Know who your child is and do not force them to become other than who they are. A child’s emotional and cognitive development is just as important as their physical development. There is no room for one to give way to the others. As such, child psychology is evolving every day to help us understand and raise our children better.

Therefore, we all must join this trend and make sure our children grow healthily in all developmental aspects of their lives.