Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the power of empathy

this short animated video about the difference between sympathy and empathy taught me an interesting lesson about connection and communication.  watch right up to the end.

"rarely does an empathic response begin with 'at least'."

2 comments: said...

I too hate to be treated as an incompetent who can't "fix" my own emotions. But we don;t need to change language to halt this abhorrent response. "Sym-" means "with" and "em-" means "within". So sympathy IS suffering with the other, and "empathy" is suffering as if "within" the other and are closer to being synonyms, varying in degree of closeness. The "at least..." response - agreed the one that completely misses the point, is neither sympathy nor empathy - "callous" comes closer.

Mrs Hmmz said...

farstarz - I don't think it's entirely fair to call the "at least" response callous, I think it comes from a good place of trying to make the person feel better by looking on the bright side, it's just not very effective at actually doing that for most people! Some of us have the "at least" response built into our psychological makeup, it's one of the things I tell myself to cope with bad things that happen, and it works for me. It's taken me a long time, though, to realise that it's not what others want to hear when they're hurting!

The trouble with empathy is that we can only ever understand others through the prism of our own minds & experiences so it can be somewhat lacking when people think differently to us; this is why the most empathetic response is usually to talk as little as possible & just listen, as what we think we'd want to hear in the same situation isn't necessarily true of others, and by listening you can come to a better understanding of their true thoughts & feelings. Being listened to also helps the person feel validated & valued.