Meaning of Empathy

What is Empathy:

Empathy is the intention to understand feelings and emotions, trying to objectively and rationally experience what another individual feels. The word empathy is of Greek origin “empátheia ” which means “excited”.

Empathy makes people help each other. It is closely related to altruism – love and concern for others – and the ability to help.

When an individual manages to feel the pain or suffering of others by putting himself in their place, the desire to help and act according to moral principles awakens.

The ability to put yourself in another’s place, which is developed through empathy, helps to better understand behavior in certain circumstances and the way in which the other makes decisions.

The empathic person is characterized by having affinities and identifying with another person. It is knowing how to listen to others, and understand their problems and emotions. When someone says “there was an immediate empathy between us”, they mean that there was a great connection, an immediate identification.

Empathy is the opposite of antipathy since contact with the other person generates pleasure, joy, and satisfaction. Empathy is a positive attitude that allows establishing of healthy relationships, generating a better coexistence between individuals.

In English, empathy is “empathy”.

empathy in psychology

According to psychology, empathy is the psychological or cognitive ability to feel or perceive what another person would feel if they were in the same situation experienced by that person.

Empathy as a value

Empathy can be seen as a positive value that allows an individual to relate to other people easily and pleasantly, the relationship with others being important to maintaining a balance in their emotional state of life.

On the other hand, empathy allows a person to understand, help, and motivate another person who is going through a bad time, achieving greater collaboration and understanding among the individuals that make up a society.

empathy and assertiveness

In the first place, assertiveness is expressing at the right moment, and in an appropriate way, both positive and negative ideas and feelings in relation to a situation.

Therefore, empathy and assertiveness are communication skills that allow a better social adaptation, despite the fact that both skills present differences.

The assertive individual defends his own convictions, while the empathetic individual understands the convictions of other people. Despite this, he must respect and tolerate all the ideas that arise in the discussion regarding a given situation.

empathy and sympathy

As such, sympathy is a feeling of affinity that attracts and identifies people. It takes an individual to generate harmony and alliance with another. Specifically, it is when someone likes you, that you feel good about her because of the way she is or feels.

For its part, empathy, as previously stated, is the understanding that one person feels for another in a certain situation.

However, a person can feel sympathy and empathy for another at the same time.

What is empathy: definition, importance, and how to develop it

It is said that empathy is the “social glue”, but what does this mean? How can being more empathetic benefit us? All this and much more are below.

What is empathy?

The definition of empathy, according to the RAE, is the ability to identify with someone and share their feelings, but the truth is that it goes further.

Empathy is the intention to understand the emotional state of the other, it is the experience of understanding the other person’s condition from their perspective, which implies putting yourself in their shoes, really feeling what the other is experiencing, especially when going through a bad time. 

This word comes from the Greek, empátheia, which means “excited.” At the beginning of the 20th century, the area of ​​​​psychology decided to adopt this word and expand its original meaning: today it is considered the most important component of emotional intelligence. 

You do not have to agree with the other in their way of interpreting what could have happened to them, it is simply a matter of understanding other people. It is an effective participation in the reality of the other, where we make, for a moment, their emotional world ours.

It should be noted that being empathetic is not the same as being nice. They are different concepts since you can feel sympathy for a perfect stranger who has gone through one or two situations similar to some that have been experienced in their own flesh.

Empathy goes further, it is about genuinely connecting with the feelings of the other and, therefore, it is very important to learn to manage the emotions that this can cause us.

There are three types of empathy: 

  • Cognitive empathy: it is limited empathy in which we only adopt the perspective of the other, it implies that we can put ourselves in their shoes and that it is born from an intellectual understanding. 
  • Personal distress: it is when the feelings of the other are felt, such as when you see someone suffer and you suffer by their side. It is classified as an emotional contagion, that is, when the other person literally infects us with their emotions from her. Many are so prone to this type of empathy that they are often very overwhelmed by their feelings, which can lead to great stress. It is also called empathy burnout. 
  • Empathic concern: this is the one that best fits the definition of empathy that we have explained and which we are going to continue developing since it is about knowing the emotional states of others and connecting effectively. Although a certain level of personal distress may be shown, this discomfort can be handled and managed and thus manifest genuine concern, which can be felt, and the feelings mobilized, but which do not cause the person to become paralyzed. 

You have to keep in mind that empathy is learned. You are not born an empath. 

Children don’t know how to identify their own feelings, and when they can’t identify what’s wrong with them, their primal instincts lead them to cry or get angry.

When an inconvenience arises that they do not know how to handle, you have to explain to them what those feelings are, and call them by their names, whether they feel frustrated, sad, overwhelmed, or angry, so that they can feel more understood and thus be able to identify what is causing them. happens when growing up, and in this way knowing how to help others as far as they can.

Although the brain has the capacity to experience empathy, it must begin to work on it in childhood so that it develops during the first years of life.

Characteristics of empathic people

Do you consider yourself an empathic person? Here we present some characteristics that will allow you to evaluate yourself and draw a conclusion. 

  1. Active listening capacity: empathetic people are good at listening carefully to what others have to say, in addition to reflecting on what the other tells them. 
  2. They look at each other: they usually maintain eye contact while they speak. 
  3. They pay attention to details: they are good at detecting how other people are feeling through non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, looks, etc. 
  4. They are very attentive: they always try to help those who need them as much as they can. 
  5. They are tolerant: they are able to accept and respect the feelings and emotions of others, even if they do not share them. 
  6. They are intuitive: Usually, these people can sense that something is wrong with you without you telling them. 

People with a lack of empathy tend to be very critical of others, they accuse others of being too sensitive, they have a hard time admitting that they were wrong and they do not put themselves in the other’s shoes even if they have been through the same situation.

Benefits of being an empath

The above can be misconstrued as making people overly sensitive or even vulnerable, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Being an empath brings many benefits and positive aspects.

Next, we will mention some of these:

1. Helps develop social skills

Empathy helps people communicate better and strengthen their social relationships since when you understand what the other feels, you can respond in a good way, you become more friends and those friendships are much more meaningful and sincere.