First things first: what is empathy?
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’, whereas Sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune’.
Scientists have identified three types of empathy:
- cognitive (understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense)
- emotional (‘catching’ someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too (also known as emotional contagion)
- compassionate (understanding someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help)
The important thing about empathy is that it not only helps us sense the perspectives and feelings of other people, and show an active attention in their concerns but it also enables us to tune in on their needs and concerns, and help them to develop to their full potential.
- Helps you treat the people you care about the way they wish you would treat them and to better understand the needs of people around you.
- Helps you clearly understand the perception you create in others with your words and actions, as well as to better understand the unspoken parts of your communication with others.
- Helps you learn how to motivate the people around you and how to convince more effectively others of your point of view.
- Helps you in having less trouble dealing with interpersonal conflict both at home and at work, as well as in predicting more accurately the actions and reactions of people you interact with.
- Helps you experience the world in higher resolution, as you perceive through not only your perspective but the perspectives of those around you.
- Helps you deal with the negativity of others if you can better understand their motivations and fears