Week 1: Defining Empathy
Before we jump right into how to be empathic, we need to understand what empathy is and what it’s not. This week, the challenge is to think about past moments in your life and identify if you were or weren’t empathic in the situation. Write them down if it helps you visualize the situations better.
Firstly, empathy is different from compassion. While they two are intertwined, empathy involves action and attempting to understand someone’s experiences, while compassion is an emotional response to one’s experiences. In this article, we learn about the three types of empathy: cognitive empathy (understanding how a person feels and what they’re thinking), emotional empathy (sharing the feelings of another person), and compassionate empathy (taking action to understand one’s feelings or experiences). While we like to dismiss the past and live in the present, it’s important to look back and see where we can grow in our future. This week, give yourself the space to reflect and understand your role in certain situations—but don’t be too hard on yourself. People react differently in emotionally charged situations, and you don’t always have the full scope of someone’s experiences, which is why having empathy is crucial.
This internal dialogue will open up the space to start understanding your thoughts and actions and help you learn which moments in your life you might’ve needed more empathy. But, how do you become empathetic? Next week, we’ll be exploring becoming a better listener and learning ways to apply it in empathetic ways.