The ‘Give-and-Take’ of Empathy
Providing comfort to those around you is a skill. It’s hard to understand the weight of a situation someone is experiencing if we are not or have not experienced it ourselves. The feeling of empathy differs from sympathy, as sympathy is simply feelings of condolences and sorrow for another’s misfortune. Four attributes of empathy include:
To be able to see the world as others see it
To be nonjudgmental
To be able to understand another’s feelings
To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
We have to be in touch with our own feelings in order to understand another’s. While being empathetic is necessary for the other party to feel heard and cared about, it is also important to understand that empathy doesn’t ask us to take responsibility for someone else’s feelings. Communication is not the only prerequisite, but so is comprehension. As all skills do, empathy strengthens with practice and encourages people to both give and receive it in return. By receiving empathy from others, we begin to understand how good it feels to us to be heard and accepted, as well as the strength it takes to share the need for empathy in the first place.
Thieda, Kate. “Brené Brown on Empathy vs. Sympathy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/partnering-in-mental-health/201408/bren-brown-empathy-vs-sympathy-0.
Williams, Jennifer A. “What Is Empathy and Why Is It Important?” What Is Empathy and Why Is It Important?, 2017, blog.heartmanity.com/what-is-empathy-and-why-is-it-important.