What is empathy?
How you connect and relate to others can be an important factor in how you feel every day. It’s not always easy or simple to get on with our friends, family, colleagues, and bosses. It needs a key social skill which is empathy.
Sympathy vs Empathy
Many people often confuse empathy and sympathy. Sympathy means understanding someone’s challenges and suffering at a distance. Empathy is about being able to experience what someone else is feeling. You can do that by imagining yourself in that person’s shoes.
When you express empathy, you can see people for who they are. Not who you expect or want them to be. Sometimes you don’t quite get it right. The good news is that empathy is a skill that you can learn.
There are three key factors of empathy:
- Cognitive empathy - imagining ourselves in the situation.
- Emotive empathy – feeling the situation alongside the person.
- Empathic action – not trying to fix the problem or offer a solution.
How is this relevant to me?
Throughout your life you will often have to express empathy towards other people. It helps you understand other people and their situations. It also allows you to help other people and generate ideas that work for everyone.
Here are some tips to help you express empathy:
- Be present, focus your attention on what they’re saying. Don’t get distracted by looking at your phone or emails!
- If you’re unsure about what they’ve said, repeat it back to them in your own words. Ask any questions if you’re unsure.
- Don’t be quick to offer a solution, listen to what they have to say.
- Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, acknowledge what they’re saying. You can’t disagree with the way a person feels.
- If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break. Revisit when you’re feeling more grounded.