Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and thoughts about a situation and see their perspective rather than seeing the problem from your perspective. Most people think that sympathy and empathy are the same things; however, they differ slightly.
Sympathy is where someone else’s thoughts and feelings move an individual, but there is an emotional distance between them. Empathy is where there is less emotional distance between the two.
There are three types of empathy, cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.
Cognitive empathy knows how the other person feels and what they might be thinking during a certain situation. This is also referred to as perspective-taking. When you are talking to someone, whether it is your friend, a family member, or even someone you just met and appeared to be sad or upset about something, most people can relate to those feelings.
When you can truly connect with the person, you will relate to their feelings and know where they are coming from. However, it is important to remember that when you have cognitive empathy, you rarely try to help when you see your friend or family member. You remain distant from the true feelings of your friend and can only relate.
Emotional empathy is when you physically feel the pain of your friend, family member, or someone that you have never met before. This type of empathy extends to physical sensations within the body. Examples of this include cringing when someone gets hurt, getting choked up when you see a happy or sad situation, and even identical twins have been known to feel the other twin’s pain even when they are not around each other.
When you experience emotional empathy, you put yourself in the same emotional situation as the other person, and then you can feel what the other person is feeling at that time. This type of empathy can be difficult for some people as they begin to feel other’s feelings to overtake their own feelings, leaving them overwhelmed and unresponsive to their own emotions.
Compassionate empathy is being able to not only understand what another is going through but also become moved to help them through their time of need. This feeling of wanting to help people through the situation is normal in human nature.
You begin to assist in taking on the struggles with that person and making that person feel better in any way you can. Through compassionate empathy, we are moved to want to help the person and right the wrongs in their lives.
This can be a blessing for some, but it can also be a curse for the person who feels empathetic at that time. Others will begin to see that you try to help others when they are experiencing certain struggles and you may be taken advantage of by some.
It is easy for people to take advantage of others that always want to help, but those that are always trying to help must be aware of what is going on and avoid situations that may lead to that.
Empathy may be natural for some people; however, it does not come naturally for all people. Society now has people thinking more about themselves and less about those around them. We have been ingrained with the thought that you will not be successful in life if you do not take care of yourself.
While this is true, it is only true to a certain extent. We must have a balance of taking care of ourselves and taking care of others.