Empathy is the ability for humans to recognize, understand, and share thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or character. Developing empathy is an essential aspect of establishing healthy relationships and behaving compassionately throughout life.
Empathy allows you to experience another person’s point of view, feelings, or behaviors rather than just your own. Empathy comes from within rather than experiencing another person’s feelings or behaviors in a forced manner. There are different types of empathy that people can display.
Cognitive empathy is also referred to as perspective-taking, which is not what most people would consider empathy at all. Cognitive empathy is being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes to see their perspective of various situations. This is a useful skill for many people especially those in leadership positions.
Cognitive empathy allows you to put yourself in someone else’s place; however, you do not engage in their emotions. Cognitive empathy is more of a rational or logical process rather than aligning with the definition of empathy as “feeling” others’ emotions.
Compassionate empathy is the most common empathy that we understand. Compassionate empathy is when you feel someone else’s pain and take action to help to ease that pain. Compassionate empathy is about feeling concern about someone in physical, mental, or emotional pain and taking action to mitigate the issues causing that person pain.
Most people who want your empathy do not necessarily want you to empathize with them to know what they are feeling, they want you to take steps to help them out of the situation they are in any way that you can. You must be cautious with this however, some people can use your empathy to get what they want and use your good character for malicious intent or to manipulate others.
Emotional empathy is when one can emotionally feel others’ emotions along with them. Emotional empathy is also referred to as personal distress or emotional contagion. Emotional empathy can be good and bad. Good emotional empathy means that one can readily understand and feel people’s emotions.
This is especially important for those in professions such as doctors and nurses as it helps to respond to a patient’s needs appropriately. It can also help in our relationships as well. You can emotionally empathize with friends and family members when they are distressed.
Bad emotional empathy is when you become overwhelmed by the emotions you are feeling from others. This is known as empathy overload. When you are overloaded by the empathy you are feeling from others, you cannot respond and manage your own emotions.
Somatic and Spiritual empathy are suggested types of empathy. They are not well-known or accepted by all like the other types of empathy; however, they are worth mentioning. Some people are not aware of these two types of empathy, but when they learn about it, some can relate to these types of empathy as well.
Spiritual empathy is defined as having a direct connection with a higher power or consciousness. It is the same as being enlightened in the Eastern philosophical tradition. Spiritual empathy is considered to be achieved through mediation.
Somatic Empathy is defined as being able to feel someone’s physical pain. Some people can see someone wounded and physically feel that person’s pain physically. Identical twins are most notorious for being able to experience somatic empathy for each other.
When one twin falls and scrapes their knee, the other twin can feel the pain as well. Some have even felt the pain before knowing the other was physically hurt.