Jargonbuster - Empathy
Posted on 19th May 2022
Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else's position and feeling what they are feeling.
Empathy means that when you see another person suffering, such as after they've lost a loved one, you are able to instantly envision yourself going through that same experience and feel what they are going through.
While sympathy and compassion are related to empathy, there are important differences. Compassion and sympathy are often thought to be more of a passive connection, while empathy generally involves a much more active attempt to understand another person.
If you are wondering whether you are an empathetic person, here are some signs that show that you have this tendency:
You are good at really listening to what others have to say.
People often tell you about their problems.
You are good at picking up on how other people are feeling.
You often think about how other people feel.
Other people come to you for advice.
You often feel overwhelmed by tragic events.
You try to help others who are suffering.
You are good at telling when people aren't being honest.
You sometimes feel drained or overwhelmed in social situations.
You care deeply about other people.
You find it difficult to set boundaries in your relationships.
Some people lack empathy and, therefore, aren't able to understand what another person may be experiencing or feeling. This can result in behaviours that seem uncaring or sometimes even hurtful. For instance, people with low affective empathy have higher rates of cyberbullying.
A lack of empathy is also one of the defining characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. Though, it is unclear whether this is due to a person with this disorder having no empathy at all or having more of a dysfunctional response to others.
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