A quick trick to boost your empathy for others starts with saying thanks.

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Empathy is one of the most important human values a person can possess that’s even backed by science.

Seriously, thank humanity’s collective they are able to put ourselves in others’ shoes for the fact that our everyday lives( hopefully) don’t resemble a YouTube comment thread gone bad.

Studies have shown that people who have high social competency( empathy) scores as children turn out to lead more successful adult lives. In August, I wrote about the effect stress has on our ability to empathize with others.

“I feel your pain.” Cartoon cis dudes shown here. GIF from Chris O’Hara/ Vimeo.

But in all this talk about empathy, we tend to gloss over how we can get better at being empathetic in our everyday lives. Let’s fix that .

One way to up your ability to empathize with others is to take stock of what’s happening in your life.

It’s really easy to focus on the negative aspects of life and overlook the good. Of course, life’s negatives are totally legitimate, and I’m not at all indicating anyone erase that by appealing to worse problems( i.e ., “What are you complaining about? So many others have it so much worse! “) because genuinely, 1) how has that ever helped? and 2) it’s not a competition.

What I’m indicating is that you take stock of the very best and the bad . Go ahead, give it a try. It might seem something like this( these are just examples ):

GIFs via Anna Akana/ YouTube.

Once you understand and recognise how your life is affected by privilege, you can reversal engineer your way into strangers’ shoes.

For a long hour, I failed to appreciate the privileges I have, some as simple as being born in the U.S. as opposed to a war-torn country like Syria. It actually wasn’t until the early 2000 s when I expended day thinking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that I even held I had in any way benefited from being born a U.S. citizen.

Had I been born in Syria, Afghanistan, or Iraq, or heck, even somewhere not in the midst of an ongoing conflict like Ireland or Japan, my life would certainly be significantly different. I have pure, unearned luck to thank for that. So in knowing that, and in being thankful for that, I can see where my empathy is lacking, and fix it.

GIFs from Anna Akana/ YouTube.

This is why when someone says something like “Oh, we’re all only people” or “I don’t watch color” in response to someone else pointing out sexism or racism, for example, they’re various kinds of missing the phase of being empathetic. The fact is that we’re not all afforded the same opportunities, and sometimes it really does come down to things like race, gender, or sex orientation all beyond our control.

In order to live in a more peaceful world, we need to acknowledge how we’re different from each other, so that we can have empathy for each other. And once you’ve recognise these differences, you can use that knowledge for good to help combat discrimination.

Take time to build that listing of things in life that have shaped you and that you’re genuinely thankful for. You’ll be a better person for it.

For me, that includes being thankful for having a loving family, a middle-class upbringing, never having had to worry about being discriminated against because of the colour of my skin, a job I genuinely enjoy, the good fortune to have been able to afford college, and so much more.

GIF from Anna Akana/ YouTube.

I understand that these factors aren’t universal. I understand that some of these like not having to worry about racism, for example have led to my life being a bit different than that of a woman of color. Acknowledging these differences is the first step to becoming a more empathetic person .

You can check out Anna’s full video below. Best of luck in your quest to becoming a more empathetic human being!

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