We all want a thriving social life. We all want friends to share life with and relationships that make us feel alive. Unfortunately, most modern people simply suck at being social. This is caused by a lack of empathy because, believe it or not, empathy improves social skills.
We are social creatures. We thrive off of having strong connections with other people. But when you lack empathy, you lack the ability to make strong connections.
Our modern society makes it easy to lack empathy. All this focus on individuals and individual rights only makes the spotlight effect stronger.
Obtaining empathy is the best way to improve social skills. Here are two reasons why empathy helps.
1. Get out of your head
When you talk to people, do you ever notice that they are somewhat absent from the conversation? They're there, but not fully paying attention, as if they're waiting for something. When we lack empathy, we wait for our turn to shine rather than letting the other person take the spotlight. The first thing that empathy helps with is getting you out of your head so others can shine.
Now, this may sound a little counter-intuitive. Why would you want to let somebody seem more interesting than you? Simple: everybody's favorite topic is themselves.
When you let somebody else shine, they are showing off their favorite thing in the world, which is them. When they see that you're listening, they will keep going and going.
This accomplishes two things.
First, you don't run out of things to say as quickly. Because they are doing most of the talking, they end up giving you lots to work with, or you get to hold on to the things you want to talk about until they're done.
This makes conversations more interesting and fun as you don't have as much downtime. You get to keep on talking and laughing about things that are interesting to both of you.
Second, it makes them like you more. This isn't to say you should let them do %90 of the talking. This is to say that when you show genuine interest in who they are, they will like you more.
Remember, everybody's favorite topic is themselves. If you show interest in them, then they conclude that you must be a good person, because everybody believes themselves to be good people.
Empathy improves social skills firstly by getting you out of your head so you can more easily connect with others. This is the most fundamental aspect of social skills.
2. Actually paying attention
We can all tell when somebody isn't really paying attention to us. It's not something you can easily describe, but you know it when you see it. It's never a fun thing to experience. Everybody wishes that those we interact with would pay us real attention. Empathy improves social skills by allowing you to actually pay real attention to people.
I'm going to say something that may offend you and many others. We are all narcissistic to a degree. Some more than others, but we are all naturally self-absorbed.
This isn't a bad thing. This is put in place to ensure that we actually have our needs and wants met as best as possible.
The problem with the modern-day is that it magnifies the ugly side of this self-absorption. Rather than having a healthy amount of it, we have too much.
When you have actually empathy for others, you aren't less self-absorbed, but sufficiently self-satisfied.
A good way to look at it is that your cup is full and starting to overflow, so you share with others. There's more than enough for you, so you decide to give the excess to others in the form of genuine attention.
To obtain excellent social skills, you want to aim to have your cup overflowing. Again, everybody's favorite topic is themselves, so when you are able to genuinely pay them attention, it makes the whole interaction more enjoyable.
Once you've gotten out of your head, empathy improves social skills by allowing you to give genuine attention to the people you interact with.
The biggest advantage in a self-absorbed world
When everybody around you is self-absorbed as they are, or even if they aren't, having empathy makes a huge difference in the quality of your social interactions. It makes the difference between you being memorable and you being just another person.
Empathy isn't something we're born with, but, oddly enough, we are born with the tools necessary for it. As for how to develop empathy, that'll be the topic of the next post.