What Is Empathy?
Have you heard the term and confused it with sympathy? Even though they sound almost the same, there is a fundamental difference. Sympathy means to feel for someone whereas empathy means to feel with someone.
According to psychologists, empathy can be of three types:
1. Cognitive empathy: this uses a person’s rational faculty to understand someone else’s thoughts and emotions.
2. Emotional empathy: this makes use of the sentimental faculty by which someone can feel someone else’s emotions.
3. Compassionate empathy: this is when someone, not only understands a person’s feelings, but helps them.
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According to Daniel Goleman, the author of “Emotional Intelligence,” empathy has five key elements:
1. Understanding: the first step is listening to others, being sensitive and trying to see their perspectives.
2. Developing others: some people possess the skill to make someone feel better by appreciating, praising, coaching and being positive.
3. Having a service orientation: this is the ability to put someone else’s needs before yourself. It involves being loyal to the person.
4. Leveraging diversity: this is the capability to see good in everyone and respect them.
5. Political awareness: no, not in the manipulative sense, but letting people have their share of success through organization.
What Is The Importance Of Empathy In Society?
When there is any problem, empathy helps us to see the other side and make wise decisions. Psychologist Carol Kusché believes children who are not empathetic, may notice other people’s emotions. However, if they are not taught on empathy, there are chances of them becoming antisocial later on. Some studies show that the best way to prevent adolescents from committing a crime is by making them play the role of a victim.
Sometimes we do not need advice but a patient listener who understands. When you are low, you want to vent, no matter how silly the situation or issue is. Empathy helps you evolve, be at home with someone without the fear of being judged and makes you more humble. There are always two sides of a story and it is important to see both in a relationship.
Relationships are based on communication. In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Joel says, “Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.” How true is that?
As mentioned earlier, sometimes you feel like pouring your heart and soul out without any restraint. Empathy allows this communicative bond between people. Imagine when someone who is suicidal shares her feelings with you, would you tell her to snap out of it and look at life differently? Or tell her that she is just bored and must try new things?
If you do, you are not making her feel any better. You are triggering her feelings of worthlessness. You cannot always “look at the brighter side”. Sometimes you want someone to be there in the dark.
Perfect The Art Of Empathy
Practice makes one perfect, right? Practice listening to people without thinking about the response. Ask questions in order to get a better understanding, and do not stare at your phone.
If you have an “enemy” at home, work or school, there is a tendency to feel that you’re on the right always. If it is difficult putting yourself in their shoes, try and think of yourself as a third person. Observe.
We are all humans and we all make mistakes. A little empathy makes the world a much better place. So “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”!
Image was originally taken by an incredible photographer Maja Topčagić