Beyond the “Better Than” Mindset: Building Empathy for Stronger Relationships

Empathy is one of the most essential components of strong and healthy relationships. It allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, understand their perspectives, and show compassion and support. However, empathy can be difficult to cultivate, especially in a society that often prioritizes individualism and competition. One of the biggest barriers to empathy is the “better than” mindset, which can lead us to view others as inferior or unworthy. In this article, we will explore the importance of empathy in building strong relationships and discuss strategies for overcoming the “better than” mindset to cultivate greater empathy.

The Importance of Empathy in Building Strong Relationships

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, show compassion and support, and build trust and intimacy. Empathy is essential for building strong and healthy relationships, whether it’s with romantic partners, family members, friends, or colleagues. Here are some of the ways in which empathy can benefit our relationships:

1. Increased Understanding and Communication

Empathy allows us to understand others’ perspectives, needs, and feelings. This understanding can lead to more effective communication and problem-solving, as we are better able to see things from their point of view and respond in a way that meets their needs.

2. Greater Trust and Intimacy

Empathy fosters trust and intimacy by creating a sense of emotional connection and closeness with others. When we feel understood and supported, we are more likely to open up and share our deepest thoughts and feelings, which can lead to greater closeness and vulnerability.

3. Improved Conflict Resolution

Empathy can also help us to resolve conflicts more effectively. By understanding others’ perspectives and emotions, we can approach disagreements with a greater sense of compassion and understanding, which can lead to more peaceful and productive outcomes.

The “Better Than” Mindset: A Barrier to Empathy

Despite the many benefits of empathy, it can be difficult to cultivate in a society that often values individualism and competition. One of the biggest barriers to empathy is the “better than” mindset, which can lead us to view others as inferior or unworthy. This mindset can manifest in many different forms, such as:

  • Judging others based on their race, gender, or socioeconomic status
  • Comparing ourselves to others and feeling superior or inferior
  • Assuming that our experiences or perspectives are more valid or important than others’
  • Focusing solely on our own needs and desires, without considering how they may impact others

These attitudes can create a sense of separation and division between individuals, making it difficult to connect and empathize with others. Overcoming the “better than” mindset requires a combination of self-reflection, compassion, and active effort to build stronger relationships based on empathy.

Strategies for Cultivating Empathy

Cultivating empathy is a process that takes time and practice. Here are some strategies that can help you overcome the “better than” mindset and build stronger relationships based on empathy:

1. Practice Self-Reflection

The first step in cultivating empathy is to reflect on your own attitudes and beliefs. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What assumptions do I make about others?
  • Do I judge others based on their appearance or social status?
  • Am I open to considering others’ perspectives and experiences?

By being honest with yourself about these attitudes, you can start to identify areas where you may need to make changes in order to cultivate greater empathy.

2. Listen Fully and Without Judgment

One of the most important aspects of empathy is listening fully and without judgment. This means actively listening to what others are saying, without interrupting or assuming that you know what they are thinking or feeling. It also means avoiding judgment or criticism, even if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying.

3. Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a specific type of listening that involves responding to others in a way that demonstrates understanding and support. This can include repeating back what the other person has said, asking clarifying questions, and expressing empathy and support.

4. Seek Out Diverse Perspectives

To cultivate empathy, it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives and experiences. This may involve stepping out of your comfort zone and engaging with people who have different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. By exposing yourself to different viewpoints, you can broaden your understanding of the world and develop greater empathy for others.

5. Practice Compassion

Compassion is an essential component of empathy, as it involves showing kindness and concern for others’ well-being. This can involve simple acts of kindness, such as offering a listening ear or a helping hand, as well as more complex actions, such as advocating for social justice and equality.


Empathy is an essential component of strong and healthy relationships, and it requires us to overcome the “better than” mindset that can create division and separation between individuals. By practicing self-reflection, active listening, seeking out diverse perspectives, and cultivating compassion, we can cultivate greater empathy and build stronger, more supportive relationships with others. Ultimately, building empathy requires a conscious effort to prioritize connection over competition, and to approach others with an open heart and mind.


Related Posts

  1. Kärreman, D., & Alvesson, M. (2014). The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Balance and Stability in Contemporary Careers. Journal of Management Inquiry, 23(1), 11-26.
  2. Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of personality and social psychology, 44(1), 113.
  3. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological bulletin, 98(2), 310.
  4. Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A. M., & Frith, U. (1985). Does the autistic child have a “theory of mind”?. Cognition, 21(1), 37-46.
  5. Eisenberg, N., & Fabes, R. A. (1990). Empathy: Conceptualization, measurement, and relation to prosocial behavior. Motivation and emotion, 14(2), 131-149.
  6. Batson, C. D. (1991). The Altruism Question: Toward a Social-Psychological Answer. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
  7. Decety, J., & Jackson, P. L. (2004). The functional architecture of human empathy. Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience reviews, 3(2), 71-100.
  8. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.
  9. Sherman, G. D., Mann, T., & Updegraff, J. A. (2006). Approaching others with a heart versus a head: The differential influence of compassion versus perspective-taking on judgments of and behavior toward others. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(4), 765.
  10. Cikara, M., Botvinick, M. M., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). Us versus them: social identity shapes neural responses to intergroup competition and harm. Psychological science, 22(3), 306-313.