Three types of empathy?

Empathy is a magic ingredient.  Add it, and everyone and everything improves.  

The research shows patients are more like to follow their doctor’s recommendations if their doctor scores high on empathy.  Marriages are happier when the partners are empathic.  Those who practice empathy are less anxious and less stressed.  

Empathy involves withholding judgment, taking the other person’s perspective, recognizing emotion in other people, and communicating that back. 

Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman tells us there are three types of empathy that originate from different parts of our brain.  

“Cognitive empathy” involves understanding the what and the why of what the other person is experiencing.  We understand their perspective, how they see the situation, and what they are feeling.  Think: “walk a mile in their shoes.”  

“Emotional empathy” is when we feel the same feelings the other person is feeling, which involves the social part of our brain.  We sense their emotions around what has happened.  Think, rapport, chemistry.  We become upset ourselves.  This type of empathy requires us to focus fully on the other person.  

“Empathic concern” involves not just what someone feels, but wanting to help.  A deep desire for their well-being to improve.  Think: a parent’s love for a child.  We will be there for them.  We want to help them improve.  

The best interactions involve all three types of empathy.  

So many good outcomes arise from empathy.  Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, research suggests empathy is on the decline.

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Reflection:  Which of the three types of empathy do I feel most often?  How could I benefit from increasing the other forms of empathy?

Action:  Look for an opportunity to be empathetic today.

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