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Empathy (its definition and comparison with similar phrases)

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What is empathy? What definition of empathy do you have in mind? The word empathy refers to the ability to recognize, understand the thoughts and feelings of another person or animal, or imaginary character.

General information about empathy

As you know, empathy is essential for building relationships and human behavior. Empathy makes doing social behaviors away from coercion seen as help that one is willing to do within oneself.

Surveys show that empathy has declined in the United States and many other places.

Therefore, when talking to parents, teachers always advise them to teach empathy to their children. Schools and communities also encourage compassion for others. In this way, people of any age can work on their ability in this field.

A woman talking to a teenage boy and writing down important points
A woman talking to a teenage boy and writing down important points

Empathy means briefly the capacity to put oneself in another person’s situation (Bellet, 1991).

Definitions of empathy are varied and will include a variety of emotional states. If we want to point out empathy, we can name these cases.

  • Cognitive empathy
  • Emotional empathy
  • Physical empathy
  • Spiritual empathy

The origin of the English word empathy

You may be interested to know that the word has its roots in ancient Greek ἐμπάθεια (empatheia meaning “emotion or bodily interest”).

The word refers to “passion” or “suffering.”

  In modern Greek, the word εμπάθεια may mean depending on the circumstances of prejudice, malice, resentment, or hatred.

Empathy is the experience of emotions that correspond to other people’s feelings in a particular situation.

If you can discern what the other person is thinking or feeling, empathy (Pijnenborg et al., 2012).

A man with a watermelon in his hand next to his pregnant wife
A man with a watermelon in his hand next to his pregnant wife

What should we do to create empathy with others?

You do not have to do anything special for someone to create empathy. Empathy involves understanding that many factors play a role in people’s decisions and thought processes.

For example, whatever a person has experienced in the past will influence their decision today.

If you can understand this concept correctly, you can more easily understand why people make irrational decisions to solve a problem.

Many events and factors, such as home breakdowns, physical or mental injuries in childhood, and poor parenting, can affect a person’s brain communication to make future decisions. 

Martin Hoffman says that everyone is born with the ability to feel empathy. (As we have said, definitions of empathy include a wide range of phenomena. One of the most important ones is caring for other people and the desire to help them (Roth-Hanania et al., 2011).

But if you can understand the person’s situation, you will have much better empathy with the person.

A child with a dog at home
A child with a dog at home

Empathy and related concepts

Compassion or compassion and empathy are also terms related to empathy. Compassion is often an emotion that evokes a sense of helping people.

Empathy also applies to the feeling of caring and understanding of people in need. Some empathies include feelings of concern for others. There is also a desire to see people in a bad situation better or happier in empathy. Of course, remember that empathy is not the same as pity. 

Talk about the concept of empathy and listening to others in a group

Talk about the concept of empathy and listening to others in a group
Talk about the concept of empathy and listening to others in a group

When we are in front of people who have problems or need the help of others, we will feel pity for them.

Some people can not solve their problems alone, making others feel sorry (Hatfield et al., 1993).

Do women feel more empathy or men?

On average, experiments and research have shown that women scored higher on the EQ than men. But men usually score higher on the SQ.

 However, research conducted in 2014 in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found evidence that gender differences in empathy have phylogenetic and endogenous roots in biology. Therefore, creating a sense of empathy in women is not just because of the culture and society in which they live, and sociability does not play a significant role in creating a sense of empathy in individuals (Christov-Moore et al., 2014).

A man in front of a woman with a smiling face and a sense of empathy
A man in front of a woman with a smiling face and a sense of empathy

Can empathy be learned?

Fortunately, empathy is a skill you can learn and reinforce. If you want to improve your empathy skills, here are some tips you can do. For example:

Focus on listening to the other person without interrupting.

Pay attention to your body language and that of others. Learn all kinds of non-verbal communication and do not say words all the time. Yes, with body language, you can also feel empathy with people.

Even if you disagree, try to understand people.

When empathizing with people, ask them questions to get valuable and sufficient information about them and their lives.

Imagine yourself in the situation where the person is. This way, you will feel better empathy with the person.

A mother with her teenage daughter and empathy with her
A mother with her teenage daughter and empathy with her

Conclusion

Thank you so much for being so supportive, and we hope you will follow us on other social networks.

In this article, we made some valuable points about empathy. Providing this information will help you feel better about empathy and better understand the difference between compassion and mercy. The end of the article are tips that will help you practice empathy.

Resources:

  1. Bellet, P. S. (1991). The Importance of Empathy as an Interviewing Skill in Medicine. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 266(13), 1831. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1991.03470130111039
  2. Pijnenborg, G. H. M., Spikman, J. M., Jeronimus, B. F., & Aleman, A. (2012). Insight in schizophrenia: associations with empathy. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 263(4), 299–307. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-012-0373-0
  3. Roth-Hanania, R., Davidov, M., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2011). Empathy development from 8 to 16 months: Early signs of concern for others. Infant Behavior and Development, 34(3), 447–458. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2011.04.007
  4. Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Emotional Contagion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2(3), 96–100. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.ep10770953
  5. Christov-Moore, L., Simpson, E. A., Coudé, G., Grigaityte, K., Iacoboni, M., & Ferrari, P. F. (2014). Empathy: Gender effects in brain and behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 46, 604–627. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.09.001
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