Why Is Empathy Important – Theory and Practice
Empathy is an increasingly relevant topic in a world where people grow apart, divided by digitized communication, social segmentation, and multiculturality. More or less often, this diversity of opinions, lifestyles, and beliefs can become a challenge to one’s own capability to show not merely acceptance but high emotional intelligence.
But then, if feeling empathy towards strangers or loosely related acquaintances is a hot topic, what about being empathetic towards our closest ones? If you take your time and think about it, you will probably recall a situation where you found it difficult to show empathy towards your own significant other or even your child.
So – what precisely is empathy, why is it important, and how does it benefit us and everyone around us? Below, you will find our brief guide into the world of empathy – a term that’s easier explained than practiced and more important than you would probably suppose.
What is Empathy: Some Definitions
Many people, organizations, religions, philosophical schools, and psychology experts have tried to define empathy through the ages.
Though explained with examples millennia back in time, the social and moral nature of compassion has become a central motif of discourse around the eighteenth century in the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith. By this time, David Hume writes that “the minds of men are mirrors to one another,” while Theodore Lipps defines empathy as the mere “experience of another human.”
Here are some other definitions of empathy that will give your understanding depth and perspective:
- According to the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology, empathy is “understanding a person from his or her frame of reference rather than one’s own, or vicariously experiencing that person’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts.”
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines empathy as “the psychological capacity to know what other people are thinking and feeling, to emotionally engage with them, to share their thoughts and feelings, and to care for their well–being.”
- In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you will read that empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”
- In Christianity, empathy is mentioned multiple times, but the most famous citation comes from Romans 12:15, which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Finally, the finest explanation of empathy in literature comes from the American poet Walt Whitman and his famous line, “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”
All of this being said, empathy is nothing but being able to jump out of your shoes and tune in to others’ emotional states. It’s not just about the rational cognitive understanding of the situation but also about emotional intelligence and the ability to feel compassion and show kindness.
Why Is Empathy Important in Real Life?
The theory is one thing, but real life takes us far beyond written definitions. So – how does empathy alter our quality of life on a day-to-day basis?
There are multiple reasons why being empathetic matters in real life, and here is a short list to begin with:
- Practicing empathy helps you better understand the motifs and behaviors of others. It can be your own emotional compass, thus ensuring your confidence and resilience in social situations.
- Empathy is also a powerful tool for building meaningful relationships and growing a healthy social circle based on acceptance and respect. It gives the fundamentals for fairness, justice, and equity in your relationships, be they friendly, intimate, or professional.
- Experiencing empathy helps you feel connected to others by paving a solid two-way street toward being valued, loved, and cared for by the people you surround yourself with.
- Empathy improves communication and opens the door to honesty in your life. When you actually listen instead of just formulating your reply, you reach a whole new level of connection – and experiencing that will show you just how valuable it is.
At the end of the day, empathy is one of the central traits of being human. And as natural as it sounds, it often needs nourishment in order to grow, develop, and bloom.
What Are 2 Benefits of Empathy?
There are way more than two benefits of feeling, showing and practicing empathy in your communication with others. And still, there are two essential tracks in which those benefits manifest themselves.
First, it makes your own life better by giving depth to your experience of others. When Aristotle said that “man is by nature a social animal,” he touched a string – because no one can live happily alone. Empathy is a way to grow your interpersonal connections into something meaningful and beautiful.
Second, empathy obviously makes things easier for everyone around you too. It’s how you make your friends, family, relatives, and colleagues feel understood, appreciated, and valuable. It’s the basis of establishing healthy relationships and a massive contribution to the overall well-being of your community.
What Is a Good Example of Empathy?
Some people have the natural ability to read others and are instinctively good at catching the air in the room. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need that superpower in order to be an empathetic human being.
One super simple example of empathy is, for example, active and engaged listening. Unlike automatic responses and self-centered dialogues, active listening is about actually paying attention to what others are trying to communicate. Moreover – it’s about trying to figure out how they’re feeling and how you can give meaningful, valuable, and helpful advice.
If you think about it, intentional and engaged listening is a rare thing to encounter. And if you’ve ever experienced that kind of response from a person around you, you already know the precious feeling of being someone’s priority, if even for a brief half an hour.
So, instead of asking yourself „Why do people lack empathy?“, you should probably begin by asking yourself if you are giving out the things you’re expecting to receive.
How Does Empathy Make You Feel?
Long story short – empathy feels equally good when you’re showing it to others and when you’re receiving it from them. It’s the satisfying feeling of connection, support, and compassion. It’s the joy of placing yourself among equals and sympathizing with both their happiness and their trouble.
The good news is that empathy is actually something you can work on and improve. It begins with emotion recognition and social skills, it goes through attention training and communication skills, and it reaches all the way to your own individual well-being.
So – it’s never too late to become better at empathizing with others, and today is the best way to start that journey, with RelaxifyApp!