What Is Empathy

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By: Jessica Carter

Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and emotions of another person. The ability to empathize is crucial for establishing relationships and acting compassionately. Rather than focusing solely on one’s own perspective, empathy enables prosocial or helping behaviors that are born within, rather than being forced. A feeling of empathy is similar to a feeling of sympathy, but empathy is usually stronger and more instinctive. The ability to empathize makes people better managers or workers, as well as better family members or friends. There is more to it than just its personal impact. Researchers say that connection and compassion are crucial to a sustainable and humane future.

Some people are more naturally empathetic than others, but there are easy, evidence-based exercises that anyone can do to increase their empathy.

Three Types of Empathy

1.   Cognitive Empathy: The ability to understand another’s thoughts and feelings.

2.   Emotional Empathy: This is the ability to feel for another person, also known as affective empathy. 

3. Compassionate Empathy: The ability to take your understanding and feelings and be moved to act and to assist another person if you can. This is also called an empathic concern.

How To Show Empathy: 3 Techniques

1.   Active listening – This multifaceted communication skill uses body language – such as eye contact and facial expressions – to communicate engagement and presence in a conversation. Open-ended questions and active listening are powerful tools for motivating others to share more and validating their feelings.

2.   Being empathetic means not holding judgment, even when offering advice. Note that you should give advice only after someone has requested your input; otherwise, the person might perceive your unsolicited advice as judgment. Such an unequal standing forces you into a sympathetic role because you’ve demonstrated you cannot share in the person’s feelings and perspective on the same level.

3.   Validate the person’s experience- Validation is an effective empathizing tool. Humans are social creatures who seek out protection and energy in numbers for survival. These instinctual grouping patterns still exist in modern society. When you listen to and validate a person, you’re metaphorically accepting this person into your community. If you’re an empathetic person, you can take these new partnerships a step further. An empath can accept the emotions that someone else feels and adopt these feelings as their own emotions—in effect, sharing the emotional weight of the speaker.

Why do people lack empathy?

There are a number of things

There are a number of things that get in the way of us utilizing and experiencing the power of empathy. Three of the main ones, which are all interrelated, are as follows:

1. Feeling Threatened

We often feel “threatened” primarily based totally on our very own fears, projections, and past experiences – not by what’s taking place in the moment or a particular relationship or situation. Whether the threat is “real” or “imagined,” while we feel threatened in any way, it often shuts down our ability to experience empathy.

2. Being Judgmental

Being judgmental is a different game than making value judgments (what to wear, what to eat, what to say, etc.). When we’re judgmental, we determine that we’re “right” and someone else is “wrong.” Doing this hurts us and others and it cuts us off from those around us. When we’re being judgmental about another person, group of people, or situation, we significantly diminish our capacity to be empathetic.

3. Fear

 Can you guess the root of all of this?

It’s our fear. There’s not anything inherently wrong with fear, it’s a natural human emotion that, has many positive components to it, if we’re willing to confess it, own it, express it, and move through it. Fear saves our lives and keeps us out of trouble all the time. The problem with fear is our denial of it. We deem things, people, or situations to be “scary,” when in truth there may be not anything in life that is inherently “scary.” When we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear – which often leads to us protecting ourselves against “threats,” being judgmental, and more – it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to access the power of empathy. 

In the workplace, empathy can help boost productivity and sales. Empathy fuels collaboration because people feel others on their team honor their concerns and feelings. Empathetic teams experience more equality, shared more talk time in meetings, and are more willing to address team member dissatisfaction at the moment, rather than ignoring it in the hopes that it might go away. Curating an empathetic leadership style also results in motivating teams to do their best work. by acknowledging the contributions of others, cultivating a shared vision, and building loyalty.

References:

The Power Of Empathy – Mike Robins

What Is Empathy And Why Is It Important – Heartmanity

How To Show Empathy: 4 Techniques to Practice Empathizing – Masterclass

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