Empathy is the ability of a person to put or feel in the position of another and understand and know what that other person feels, or even what they may be thinking. The meaning of empathy describes, then, the ability to be in the “shoes of the other.” Empathy is a positive behavior that allows building healthy relationships, creating a better coexistence between human beings. It is represented by a feeling of collaboration, caring, cordial, expressive from one individual to another.

What is empathy

It is the ability of a person to understand and know what that other person feels. An empathic person is defined by having an affinity and identifying with the other. Knowing how to understand and listen to their problems and emotions. When a person says that “there was an immediate empathy between them,” he meant that they had an instant connection.

The definition of empathy does not mean that you think the same, or that you agree with the other person. Empathy is understanding the emotional state of the other and being able to put yourself in their situation.

The most empathetic individuals are those who know how to “interpret others better”. They are able to perceive a large number of information about the other through their non-verbal language, by their physical expression, by the tone of voice or their words, etc.

Based on that information, the empath can decipher what is happening inside the other, what is happening or feeling. Also, because emotions and feelings are often a reflection of thought, you have the ability to conclude what that other might be thinking.

The word empathy comes from the Greek “ἐμπαθής” (empatheia) which means “passion”, it is composed of the quality suffix “eia” and the adjective “empathes”, which means “affected” and “excited” and with the prefix Greek “in”, which indicates that it is “in the interior”.

Characteristics of empathy

To be considered empathic, you must have certain important characteristics, which are:

  • Present a high social sensitivity: they are people who are concerned about the problems of others, the thinking and feelings of others, etc.
  • They perceive the non-verbal communication of others: they have the ability to know how to interpret physical gestures, decipher the tone of voice and capture emotional states, etc.
  • Have the ability to give a social response: They are qualified to let others know that they can fully understand your feelings.
  • Be respectful: they are able to respect and accept the feelings and behaviors of other dependent people to be approved.
  • They like to listen (not just hear), they are excellent talkers.
  • Understand and respect the reasons for each person’s behavior.

Examples of empathy

Empathy at school

Support a classmate with difficulties to carry out a simple task.

Empathy in sport

If watching a sport (game), one of the athletes is seriously injured in the middle of the game, many times the empath even has that same sense of pain of his own.

Empathy at work

It is when a boss or superior can communicate or explain clearly what they really want and how it can be achieved, in this case the workers will feel motivated and therefore carry out their work effectively.

All these examples are illustrated in the images of empathy that we find in books or on the internet, so that in that way we can better understand what empathy is.

Empathy in the family

Empathy - Family

Empathy first requires the ability to listen. Sometimes people need to be listened to and feel understood, not that their problems are solved.

This is an important issue in children. Since many times they demand to be more cared for by their parents in their needs. The willingness to listen and put yourself in the sentimental position of the child is very important. Parents should not be too quick to come up with solutions. Since it is preferable that the child can find it himself. But this is usually much easier when they feel understood.

In summary, it is of the utmost importance that parents pay attention to their children’s emotions and feelings, that they hear and understand them beyond words, to understand what kind of feeling they are expressing and thus be able to tune in better with them.

On the other hand, parents can teach and educate their children on how to be empathetic through empathy images found on the web, which are illustrations that are easy for children to understand.

Empathy as a value

The definition of empathy can be taken as a positive value that leads to people being able to relate to others more easily, and pleasing, being of great importance for them to be able to connect with others, so that in this way they can have a balance in his emotional condition.

This is considered an internal value that every person carries and that gives them the ability to understand, understand, support, help and motivate their peers. It is to feel what the other feels, to admit that they require help from others to have a good evolution in all areas, to possess this value is to be aware of everything related to the people who are around them, because if they do not they are fine, the empath feels the need to help them.

As people we have to, as far as possible, satisfy our needs, and most of them (if not all) demand intervention in their lives, even when it is in the most indirect way.

Differences between empathy and sympathy

On the one hand, empathy is kindness, listening carefully to give an answer, finding the positive point of the problem that the other person exposes. In this way, empathy is composed of different skills of understanding non-verbal expressions, of emotions, the recognition that not all individuals feel the same in similar conditions, in addition to imagining how they would be feeling themselves if they will meet is their position.

On the other hand, sympathy tends to superficialize, it does not fit in with the other, it does not recognize their feelings and it does not help them. Sometimes, the sympathetic tries to collaborate by making people believe that what is happening “is not so significant”, diminishing its importance, and adding some occurrence to their experiences.

Empathy Map

One of the empathy images that has become popular in recent years is the empathy map, which was created and developed by the company Xplane, which is a tool that approves characterizing, personalizing and knowing the customer segment. This map is an instrument that has been used for a long time, it is fundamental in Design Thinking, and others, in recent years it has taken on a new impulse.

An empathy map is structured as follows:

  • Conceptualize the business idea on the empathy map.
  • Definition of the client section (Early Adopter).
  • What you feel and think.
  • What he listens to.
  • What he talks and does.
  • What efforts, fears, frustrations and barriers you encounter.

Frequently Asked Questions about Empathy

What does the word empathy mean?

It is known as the intention to understand feelings and emotions. Empathy seeks to experience in an objective and rational way what the other person feels, in addition, it is related to altruism and awakens the ability to help as long as moral principles are followed.

How does empathy influence active listening?

When people communicate there are ways to understand what is being expressed. The first is intellectual understanding and in this the listener seeks to understand the facts and the second is empathic understanding, which is based mainly on understanding the state of mind transmitted by the narrator.

How to develop empathy?

Empathy has two systems in which it is characterized. The first is the cognitive system and allows the understanding of people’s thoughts, and the second is the emotional system and grants the ability to make the other’s feelings their own. When working with these two systems, empathic capacity is developed, resulting in a greater connection with others and considerably improving social and work relationships.

How to be an empathetic leader?

A good way to be an empathetic leader is by establishing a clear vision of the objectives that you want to achieve, transmitting the desire to create and produce, motivating people to work together, staying calm in complicated situations and establishing personal and professional limits.

What is the use of being an empath?

Empathy serves to establish a connection between several people and allows one of them to experience the emotions that the other presents, placing these as a priority at the necessary moment without focusing on their own emotions.