A long time ago
Someone accused me of
Not knowing what empathy is
I never put myself in the shoes of someone else he said
I said I don’t understand
He told me it is because my mind is closed.
If he means that I am not empathic because I can’t understand why he wanted to ruin our relationship by demanding to incorporate “benefits” into the friendship, then I am not empathic indeed.
If not joining the group when they shed unnecessary tears because someone committed a stupidity of doing the same mistakes over and over again but expecting a different result, then I am not empathic. Besides, crying in unison (because it is expected or to show you understand or in order to belong) is not a form of sympathy, it’s collective madness.
If someone truly cares, they will help you to improve the situation and yourself. They will make you understand the mistakes you are doing and help you find the solution to the problem, not crying with you and do nothing.
I cry in most people would think inappropriate situations. Like watching (not romantic) films Like Glory, Transformers, Big Hero 6 not because I sympathize but because it moved me. Likewise with babies, puppies, and paintings. I cry upon seeing senseless violence and act of kindness. I cry when I experience unexpected generosity, friendliness, and consideration from total strangers. I cry if I witness heroism and sacrifice for the greater good. But I don’t cry when someone breaks up with someone or the Notre Dame is burning. My heart reaches out to people who are victims of tragedies but I seldom cry. But issues like James Bulger, Marc Dutroux and such, I didn’t only cry, I still have nightmares.
I know there are three types of empathy that psychologists have defined: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.
By definition: Simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes called perspective-taking.
What it’s concerned with: Thought, understanding, intellect.
Benefits: Helps in negotiations, motivating other people, understanding diverse viewpoints.
Pitfalls: Can be disconnected from or ignore deep emotions; doesn’t put you in another’s shoes in a felt sense.
It is about thought as much as emotion.
It is defined by knowing, understanding, or comprehending on an intellectual level. As most of us know, to understand sadness is not the same thing as feeling sad. Those who react with Cognitive Empathy risk seeming cold or detached. To truly understand another person’s feelings, don’t you in some sense have to be able to feel them yourself?
By definition: “when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious.” – Daniel Goldman
What it’s concerned with: feelings, physical sensation, mirror neurons in the brain.
Benefits: Helps in close interpersonal relationships and careers like coaching, marketing, management, and HR.
Pitfalls: Can be overwhelming, or inappropriate in certain circumstances.
Emotional Empathy, just like it sounds, involves directly feeling the emotions that another person is feeling. You’ve probably heard of the term “empath,” meaning a person with the ability to fully take on the emotional and mental state of another. The quote that comes to mind is: “I have a lot of feelings.”
This type of response might seem disconnected from the brain and thinking, but emotional empathy is actually deeply rooted in a human’s mirror neurons. All animals have neurons that fire in a certain way when they see another animal acting, making them relate to that action in their own body and brain. Emotional empathy does exactly that with the feelings someone experiences in reaction to a situation.
When your partner—or anyone you deeply love—comes to you in tears, it’s a natural response to feel that pull on your heartstrings. Like crying at a wedding or cringing when someone stubs their toe, it’s a deep-seated, gut reaction that often feels like a visceral human response. Connecting with another human in this way is intimate and can form a strong bond.
Like Cognitive Empathy, Emotional Empathy has its flip-side. One downside of emotional empathy occurs when people lack the ability to manage their own distressing emotions and can be seen in the psychological exhaustion that leads to burnout. Feeling too much can make even small interactions overwhelming.
By definition: With this kind of empathy we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them but are spontaneously moved to help if needed.
What it’s concerned with: Intellect, emotion, and action.
Benefits: Considers the whole person.
Pitfalls: Few—this is the type of empathy that we’re usually striving for!
The majority of the time, Compassionate Empathy is the ideal. Cognitive Empathy may be fitting for political or monetary negotiations or surgeon’s offices; Emotional Empathy may be the first response in children and for our loved ones; Compassionate Empathy strikes a powerful balance of the two.
Feelings of the heart and thoughts of the brain are not opposites. In fact, they’re intricately connected. Compassionate Empathy honors that natural connection by considering both the felt senses and intellectual situation of another person.
When your loved one comes to you in tears, you want to understand why she is upset and you also want to provide comfort by sharing in her emotional experience and hopefully helping her heal. It’s a lot to handle!
Most of us will skew to one side or the other: more thinking or more feeling; more fixing or more wallowing.
Compassionate Empathy is taking the middle ground and using your emotional intelligence to correctly respond to the situation. Does the situation call for quick action? Without either becoming overwhelmed by sadness or trying to fix things with logistics, compassion brings a mindful touch to tough situations.
[Source: Daniel Goldman and Enid Spitz via Heartmanity’s Blog]
I think I am more of the first and the last and less if not at all the middle one.
How about you?
Which kind of empath are you?