How to Develop Empathy in 6 Unconventional Science-Backed Ways

Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

If you’re not all that empathetic, you can learn to develop empathy. Science shows us how we can do this.

Let’s start from the beginning. Perhaps you didn’t know, but empathy is noticed as early as 12 months of age. It also differs between genders as well. Parents raise their children in different ways, and with these various degrees of upbringing, a certain level of empathy is initiated.

However, you can develop empathy as you grow, it doesn’t remain the same. And for those who feel they lack empathy or know someone who seems cold or distant, there are ways they can learn to be more empathetic.

Science says we can develop empathy

Neuroscientists discovered an area in our brain, which if ever damaged, can affect our ability to show empathy. Aside from this, we are primed to be social animals, but to different degrees. Most of our relationship skills are developed at an early age, but our ability to feel for others can grow all during our lives.

This means we can develop empathy in many unconventional ways. Check these out.

1. Reading books

While reading of all sorts can help develop empathy, reading fiction seems to have the biggest effect. The ability to read about things outside our own reality helps us build a relationship with things ourselves as well. If we can feel for a lonely dragon or a talking pig, we can surely connect in this way with people in real-life situations. It’s as if these stories prime our feelings and emotions so we can genuinely be there for others.

2. Practice patience

While being patient is not always an easy task, it can lead to becoming more empathetic to your fellow man. Patience helps us stop in the midst of turmoil and imagine how other people must feel going through similar situations.

If you’re angry with someone, before lashing out, take a few moments of patient retrospect and discover the truth behind these angry feelings. Patience allows you time to regroup and teaches you to develop an amazing amount of empathy.

3. Mindfulness

Another way to develop sensitivity and empathy is through mindfulness. Being aware of all physical sensations and breathing keeps us grounded. Meditation is part of mindfulness and can help center our minds on the present, thus giving us the ability to feel deeper sensations and connect with others our pure form.

As we learn to process our own pains or self-empathy, we will grow greater abilities to empathize with the pain of others. It’s like learning to step into someone else’s shoes.

4. Learning another language

Being bilingual can also help you learn to be more empathetic. This is especially true for small children learning multiple languages, maybe due to relatives of different cultures. As children learn, they must catch on to which language is being used, and catch on quickly.

This allows them to learn, not only words, but different feelings and emotions expressed differently from culture to culture. This can greatly develop a high sense of empathy from an early age.

5. Oneness/spirituality

To be truly empathetic, you must really care for others. Those who practice the spirituality of some sort, do, usually care about the lives of others, even to the point of giving things and going out of their way to help in larger ways.

One idea is spirituality is oneness. Some people believe we are all one in some form or way, and with this knowledge, we must treat others as we do ourselves, in the best way possible. Empathy can be developed through such practices if you feel inclined to try them out.

6. Creativity

I am a painter and when I work on a project, my sense of self seems to disappear. I seem to float out into the work itself. In ways, I seem to offer my abilities to other forms of inspiration separate from myself. Every time I finish a painting, and I can’t quite understand this, I feel this need to be a kinder and gentler person to others.

I also seem to feel more connected to the universe itself. I think maybe, being artistic is another way we can develop empathy.

We’re not static creatures, by no means

Never let anyone tell you that you cannot change for the better. You can always improve, in character and many other ways. And yes, you can develop a sense of empathy where you had none before. We are all human and we all have feelings. Whether they’ve been pushed down from past traumas, hardened by grievous circumstances, or just taught opposing views.

Being able to feel for others is important, after all, wouldn’t you want someone to empathize with what you’re feeling sometimes? It doesn’t take loads of immediate work to cultivate empathy, it just takes consistency and patience.

Over time, you will have changed so much, you won’t even be able to recognize that old hard heart anymore. It will have been replaced by a soft fleshy one…a heart that feels and cares for the life and love of our fellow human beings.


Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.