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Are you empathic?

are you empathic
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Most of us like to think we are capable of empathising with people at least to some extent.  But while we often feel for others, is it genuine empathy or sympathy that we are experiencing?

What is empathy?

Sympathy is acknowledging that the other person is going through a hard time and help is usually offered on a more practical rather than emotional level, such as taking food round to someone who is recently bereaved.  On the other hand, empathy is being able to see things from another person’s point of view and sharing their feelings.  By understanding a situation from someone else’s perspective you are more likely to be able to connect with them emotionally, discover how they are feeling and be able to say and do the right thing to help them. Easily picking up on other people’s emotions and being strongly effected by the experiences and problems of others are both signs that what you are feeling is empathy rather than sympathy.

Looking at life through a different perspective

While we tend to think of empathy as being something we reserve for people who are suffering, whether it be from illness, loss, family troubles or money worries, there are lots of ways it can be used in every day life.  By learning to see things from other perspectives we can avoid a lot of conflict.  We don’t necessarily have to agree with other people’s opinions but appreciating where they are coming from and why they feel that way makes it easier to solve things calmly and come to a solution that helps both parties.  If your job involves dealing with complaints you’ll probably find more of your customers leave happy if you are empathic.  By listening to a client and thinking about how they must be feeling, you’ll leave them grateful that someone has taken the time to personally resolve their issue.

Being a good listener

are you empathic

In order to be empathic you need to be a good listener.  Without spending time talking and listening, you have no idea how the other person will be feeling and it will be impossible to see things from their side.  This goes hand in hand with imagination.  To be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes or see the world through their eyes, we need to be able to take the information and vibe they give us and use it to imagine what it is like to be that person.  These are skills that come naturally to some but may need practised or tuned in many in order to feel empathy with others.

However, empathy doesn’t always come about through intuition or getting someone to open up to you.  Sometimes it happens because of a shared experience, for example the death of a parent.  Someone who has already gone through such a painful experience is likely to have a good idea of how the other person is feeling and so is more likely to feel empathy, as well as sympathy, for that person.

We all experience empathy

Signs you may be more inclined to be empathic through a personality trait rather than shared experiences include; finding it difficult to watch the news or other upsetting programmes without being overly affected, being the person everyone calls when they have a problem or need to talk something through, the ability to sense how other people are feeling and coming across as being warm and compassionate.

The chances are we will all experience empathy during our lives, from both the feeling and the receiving sides but there is much to be said for putting ourselves in the place of others, for both their benefit and our own.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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