Empathy: Seeing Through The Eyes Of Someone Else

Empathy

Empathy is often explained through the phrase “standing in another man’s shoes.” It means looking at the world from someone else’s perspective and seeing through their eyes. The psychological definition of empathy, according to Hodges and Myers is understanding another person’s experience by imagining yourself in that person’s situation.

Empathy is a very crucial aspect of emotional intelligence, and empathetic people are found to have much better interpersonal relationships. Many times, we misjudge a person simply because we do not look at things from their point of view. Thus, empathy is very important to maintaining strong and healthy relationships. 

Empathy vs. Sympathy 

Though the words are sometimes used in close association, they have very different meanings. 

Sympathy usually means sorrow and pity for someone else’s misfortune. It is merely the understanding of another person’s pain without sharing it. For example, if you see a close friend crying over a dear one’s loss and you feel a certain sadness or pity, you are sympathetic towards their pain. However, if you imagine yourself in the same position and feel the pain as if it were yours, you can be called empathetic. Empathy involves projecting the other person’s situation onto oneself to understand what they must be going through. 

Like empathy, sympathy also includes a caring and sensitive attitude. But when we are sympathetic, we automatically generate a feeling of pity for the person, which is not always helpful. Being pitied often aggravates the pain. Empathy, on the other hand, promotes the feeling of shared emotions

Types of Empathy

While the underlying meaning of empathy remains the same, there are several ways in which people show it. Not everyone is empathetic in the same way, and this becomes the basis of classifying empathy into several types. 

According to renowned psychologists Goleman and Ekman, there are three components of empathy-

Cognitive Empathy: Understanding

It includes putting oneself in another person’s position without trying to feel what they feel. It involves only seeing the other person’s perspective, without having to deal with their emotions. We show cognitive empathy when we try to understand what someone else might be thinking. 

Emotional Empathy: Feelings 

This involves trying to feel what the other person is feeling. It is a deeper form of relationship in the way that you feel almost the same as the person experiencing it. If you see a character crying and you too start crying and feeling what they feel, you might be experiencing emotional empathy. However, this is not limited to emotions alone, it can also be extended to physical sensations. For example, I almost feel pain when someone gets hurt.

Compassionate Empathy: Helping and Supporting 

Along with feeling and being one with the other person, when you feel like helping and supporting the person in whatever way you can, you are compassionately empathetic. Such people have a solution-oriented approach. Compassionate empathy is very helpful and important. However, we must first listen actively without jumping straight into the problem-solving process. 

Are You An Empathetic Person? 

Like other psychological aspects, the definition and perception of empathy can be subjective. Merely feeling sorry for someone else’s pain does not qualify as empathy. Empathetic people share many qualities. They have the power to deeply understand what someone else is going through. 

If you’re wondering what the signs of an empath are and if you are one, these qualities that are shared by all empathetic people will answer your question.  

  • You easily understand other people’s emotions.
  • You have a better understanding of human actions and reactions than most other people. 
  • People like to share their personal feelings with you and value your opinion.
  • Sometimes, you feel overwhelmed by a large number of emotions and thoughts you carry in your heart.
  • You automatically imagine yourself in their position, without consciously thinking about it. 
  • It is difficult for you to set boundaries in relationships, and you are always ready to help. 
  • Try to understand the other person’s perspective. 
  • You have a good sixth sense when it comes to judging people’s feelings.
  • You have been complimented as a good listener. 

How To Be More Empathetic

If you are trying to be more understanding or if you want to help a dear one, we have got you covered. These tips will help you get a better understanding of emotions and will strengthen your relationships.

  • Be a good listener. Listening is the first and most important aspect of being an empathic person. Sometimes, simply listening to someone can make a change.
  • Be curious. It is important to ask questions.
  • View differences in opinions as something normal and acceptable. 
  • Tell the person you can relate to them.
  • Surround yourself with other empathetic people.

It Is Not Easy Being Empathetic 

While being an empath may be good for your relationships and the people around you, it can sometimes be hazardous for your mental and physical health. 

Listening to everyone’s problems and carrying the heaviness in your mind can result in excessive mental and emotional burnout. The constant need to come up with solutions to other people’s problems can be very exhausting.  Moreover, the inability to help someone can result in feelings of helplessness and anxiety. 

Listening to major traumatic and stressful details of another person’s life and imagining yourself in similar situations can shoot up anxiety levels. 

In medical and psychological counselling professions, it is extremely important to balance your own emotions and set healthy boundaries. Excessive indulgence in the client’s issues can lead to emotional fatigue. 

How To Cope As An Empath? 

Being empathetic is good, but you must also realize the importance of your own mental and emotional health. Understanding and helping other people is one thing, but doing it at the cost of your health will help no one. Here are some tips to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed with all the emotions.

  • It is okay to not have answers to everyone’s problems.
  • You should not feel the need to carry around the burden all the time.
  • Reality check: sometimes imagining yourself in another’s position becomes too real and can lead to a downwards spiral. In such cases, you should remind yourself that it is, after all, not happening to you.
  • Setting certain boundaries in relationships is normal and sometimes necessary.
  • Practice self-care activities and remember that it is okay to have some me-time. 
  • Heading outside, going for a walk, or simply sitting in a park can help your brain reset. 
  • You deserve someone who listens as well. Seeking a professional can always help. 

The Importance of Being Empathetic

In a world where mental and emotional stress is on the rise, we should realize the need to be more understanding. Everyone is dealing with issues we do not know about, and therefore, we must always listen carefully and try to understand what they might be going through. Sometimes all a person needs is someone who listens, and simply being there for them can do wonders.  Moreover, being sensitive to other people’s emotions also has an advantage for you. It will help you maintain healthy relationships, and people will like talking to you. Understanding the emotions of others also helps you understand and regulate your own. As the saying goes, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

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