• Define empathy and explain why it is important for effective communication.
• Share an example of a time when you found it difficult to empathize with someone. How did you handle the situation?
• What could you have done differently to empathize with them? Consider what you have learned in class this week
Empathy: being able to understand the feelings of others by putting yourself in their shoes (Bevan & Sole, 2014). It is not the same as sympathy because sympathy involves having compassion for someone without, necessarily, feeling their pain. Empathy means feeling another persons’ pain, usually indirectly, by comparing the pain to a similarly painful situation in your life. So, empathy is a tender feeling of another persons’ emotions or pain. Some Empaths can feel other peoples’ pain and emotions.
I have difficulty empathizing with people who are less empathetic than I am, which is most people. My life experiences have made me a very empathetic and compassionate person toward everyone. I have a little bit of trouble with individuals who do not understand, have compassion for, or straight judge addicts. Nobody wants to be a slave to anything, especially an addiction, so why do people make judgments about things that they have no experience? You should not just tell an addict to stop their addiction; if they thought it was that simple, then they would not be an addict. How do you handle situations like this? For example, how do you tell an obese person to give up food? Apparently, they already know they need to cut back on their calories. Sometimes, we need just to be quiet and listen because people already know what they need to do. Showing empathy is often non-verbal, you only love the person without judgment! When I find it difficult to empathize with someone, (a rare occurrence for me) I shut-up until I have taken the chance to put myself in their shoes; this may take minutes or days.
I have learned through trial and error how to handle better situations with those who show no empathy. At first, I would be real defensive. I had the attitude that I had to defend my cause by retaliation with words. Now, I realize that I need to get myself prepared before I speak. We cannot take our words back! I would have listened more and spoken less. I would have asked questions about their feelings: Why do you feel this way? Have you ever been in their shoes? I would have already had the following revelation: “Experience is the highest form of knowledge.”
Bevan, J. L., & Sole, K. (2014). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal
communication (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from