Listen so intently to the other person that you know what that person is really thinking and really feeling. Empathy is fully understanding what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes and then communicating that understanding.
In order to do this, however, you have to first set aside your own anxiety or tendency to listen only in order to give your reply. Only after you have reflected back what you heard, do you give a response from your point of view. This sequence reduces the other person’s defensiveness because he/she feels understood.
Often you only need to communicate empathy, saying nothing more, to improve your relationship. And, the more empathy you give, the more empathy you will get.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. In a trusting relationship there is no role playing. Both people are comfortable with disclosing their thoughts and feelings in the immediacy of the moment.
Of course, these disclosures are done in a respectful way. Begin your sentences with “I” rather than with “you”.
Trust is built through these self-disclosures as your self-disclosure increases the chances that the other person will also self-disclose. Generally, trust creates openness and openness creates trust. Then, a trusting relationship built on real thoughts and feelings brings both of you much closer.
Embrace and value the other person even when he/she says or does something you don’t like. Judge and criticize the behavior, but not the person.
Do not put any conditions on your regard for the person. Communicate, “I care” not “I care for you if you meet my expectations.”
Acceptance is not the same as tolerance, though. Tolerance implies enduring the differences which exist between us, all the while wishing that these differences would eventually be erased. Acceptance means embracing and valuing the differences—the unique strengths and weaknesses of each person.
When you meet another person’s self-disclosures with acceptance, trust is increased. The other person then is more likely to be accepting when you self-disclose and your relationship is improved.
Rogers, Carl R. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.