Empathy is an important ability for all people to have. It helps us to understand and relate to people from all walks of life. It improves your capacity to communicate with others, to be part of a team and to better your leadership skills.
Building your ability to empathise is quickly becoming one of the most important tasks of the twenty-first century.
Empathy is an emotional skill that’s built through understanding others. One way to improve your ability to empathise with others is by working with people from backgrounds different to your own.
A great way to do this is to go abroad to work with people on a project, internship or volunteer program. You’ll learn how to work with people across cultures and gain other skills associated with leadership, teamwork and intercultural competency, which are crucial for our global workforce.
What is empathy?
Empathy is largely understood as the ability to understand another person’s feelings and to consider another person’s perspective. By building empathy, you can broaden your worldview.
Practising empathy also helps you to better relate to others. When we’re in tune with our own emotions, we can relate to other people’s emotional reality more readily and effectively. This is especially significant in settings where there’s diversity among individuals.
Why is empathy important for working abroad?
Going abroad presents challenges in many ways. We all have our own perspectives, values, backgrounds and cultural understandings that contribute to our identity.
When we mix these things together, especially in a new situation or cultural context, we grow our ability to understand and empathise with others.
Studies have found that empathy is an important motivating factor for prosocial behaviour (doing good). In other words, having and building empathy helps to make the world a better place. It’ll help you be more understanding of others, which will create more collaborative workspaces and learning environments.
These qualities are also increasingly important to employers, as they search for workers who are team players, can demonstrate critical thinking, and have the ability to quickly adapt to new learnings or situations.
Here are ten key reasons why empathy is important to your future success.
1) You’ll better understand the needs of people around you
If you express empathy towards the people you work with, you’ll be able to understand what they need from you, and how you can treat them the way they want to be treated.
2) You’ll more clearly understand how you affect others
By understanding another person’s viewpoint, you can evaluate more clearly how your words and actions affect or influence them.
3) You’ll be better at understanding non-verbal cues
By focusing on your intuition, you’ll be better equipped to understand unspoken communication with others. This means you’ll be able to improve your interactions with others in the workplace and in social spaces as you will have a better gauge of how someone is feeling or how they’re responding to you.
4) You’ll be better at your job
Besides better knowing and understanding your colleagues, empathy will make you a more efficient and effective provider to your clients. You’ll be better able to read, or anticipate the needs of your clients or customers at work.
5) You’ll be better equipped to deal with interpersonal conflict
Engaging with another person’s perspective will help you in both your personal and professional relationships. It’ll make it easier for you to resolve any potential conflict.
6) You’ll more accurately predict people’s behaviour
By focusing on what motivates people’s behaviour, you’ll be better able to understand how to interact with the people you work with or are close to. You may also be able to predict their actions or reactions.
7) You’ll be better able to motivate the people around you
If you know what motivates others, how they want to be treated and what they want to achieve, then you’ll be better equipped to inspire and motivate them.
8) You’ll be able to work more effectively with others
Daniel Goleman and other researchers have consistently identified empathy as a core component of emotional intelligence and a powerful predictor of success in the workplace. Empathy helps us develop deep levels of rapport and trust with others both at work and in other aspects of life.
9) You’ll learn to look at the bigger picture
When you incorporate several different perspectives or worldviews, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture of an issue or concept.
10) You’ll become a better leader, worker and friend
Empathy will help you understand your co-workers, family and friends better. You’ll be in a better position to effectively lead and inspire others, as well as develop more caring and compassionate relationships.
Empathy is a valuable attribute that enhances overall cooperation, respect and understanding. By cultivating empathy, we are better equipped to make connections across cultures.
Feel ready to start cultivating your ability to empathise? Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning programs and internships, and work with people from around the world on sustainable development initiatives.