This morning I read an article byin the Washington Post. There’s been a lot of discussion about empathy lately, however this was the clearest explanation about the three types I’ve ever read.
I thought a quick reference would be useful. Seeing this in black & white allows me to understand empathy much more clearly. I hope this is helpful for you too.
With cognitive empathy, you understand what someone else is thinking and feeling. Great for business discussions, making plans and solving conflicts.
With emotional empathy, you actually feel their pain. This can be exhausting and take a toll on our health, relationships and sense of well-being. I’ve started asking myself; is this actually my pain? Often, it is not.
EXCERPT FROM WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE: “Neuroscientific research on empathy shows that if you’re empathizing with a person who is in pain, anxious or depressed, your brain will show activation of very similar circuits as the brain of the person with whom you’re empathizing,” notes Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.”
LINK: Washington Post article about empathy
And there’s compassionate empathy, where you feel concern about someone’s suffering and you’re motivated to help in some way. I think of all of our nation’s recent natural disasters…we’re moved by compassion to send money or participate in clothing drives. When we are motivated (or activated), we don’t have to actually feel this pain. This can be a self-esteem boost and isn’t usually draining. We feel empowered that we took action.