This blog post was written by Lindsey Anderson, MSW, LCSW-IT, Behavioral Health Therapist at the Beloit Area Community Health Center.
What is empathy?
Empathy is being able to be in someone else’s shoes, understand their feelings, communicate your understanding, and actively listening to the other person. It requires an emotional component.
Remember the song, “Lean on me”? The lyrics to this song describes a friend being able to communicate their feelings, be heard, and supported during their moment of need. The friend being supportive also hopes to get the same support when they need it too. This is empathy.
How Can I Practice Empathy?
- Allow yourself to be in vulnerable relationships that require in depth conversations.
- Do not try to solve the other person’s problem…just provide support and understanding.
- Ask questions and gain knowledge of those around you.
- Think about how you would want someone to talk to you and treat you while in a vulnerable moment.
- Validate feelings, “I hear you”.
- Check your body language.
- Paraphrase what they are saying, “I hear that you are saying _”
- “I want to make sure I hear you and understand, I’m hearing that”
- “I understand.”
- “How can I support you?”
- “I see where you are coming from.”
- “I know exactly how you feel.”
- Tone and body language is so important in conversations as it lets the person know how engaged you are and willing to participate in what is being said.
Empathy vs Sympathy
Sympathy is different than empathy. Sympathy involves comforting someone during a challenging time. It shows pity and sorrow but does not involve having a similar experience and understanding of how the other person is truly feeling.
- “That sucks”
- “I’m sorry”
- “I do not know what to say”
- “Well, at least you have __________.”