To empathize with someone is to be able to put yourself in their shoes and see through their perspective. Empathy builds with experience. We are all human, there will always be something you can relate to someone about — if you try. The level at which you can relate to them however depends on how much you expose yourself, the new situations you put yourself in, and how many different people you interact with. Empathy is also a state of mind — it's being selfless enough to put a person before yourself. Humans by nature are selfish. As animals, we will automatically lean towards doing what’s in our best interest. In many cases, it’s difficult to see the value of being understanding before getting understood, especially because of the effort that comes with it. It makes more sense to just interact with people that you get and that get you. Doing that however is extremely limiting. It is unfortunate how many interactions are avoided and how siloed groups of people become just because it seems impossible to understand or relate to those around you.
I find that people focus so much on how someone is understanding what they are telling them rather than why they are understanding it in that way or what it is they actually understand. As soon as something is misunderstood, frustration is triggered and when people are frustrated, emotion takes over. This then causes a cascade of events — both ends are reacting to each other's reactions and the basis of conversation is lost.
The best way to truly reach a shared understanding is to take few minutes to learn the other person — their background and mentality. Then with an open mind and no expectation, really listen to their perspective, take it in, and try to build off of it. There is almost always a meeting point between perspectives. The key is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture — the full spectrum — and dictate where your points lie on that line. This then helps you figure out which way you need to go in order to meet. Do you need to abstract your points or do you need to be more specific? Do you need to change your direction or provide different examples? It’s good to ask yourself these questions and give a few moments between replies to ensure the energy remains neutral and that nothing is being internalized.
This goes back to finding how you can relate to a person. The goal is to avoid sparking emotion and reach some sort of common ground. It is so fascinating how many people will usually be talking about the same thing but are coming at it from such a different point of view that they don’t see the meeting point.
Any conversation could be a progressive one. Learning to empathize and appreciate the differences in people and their perspectives can really turn an unenjoyable conversation into a beneficial one. Talking with the goal of reaching a shared understanding and building off of one another is key to progression. There really should be no limit on conversation.