Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings và emotions of other people. It is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the liên kết between self và others, because it is how we as individuals underst& what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves.

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Empathy goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ that person, through the use of imagination.


Some Definitions of Empathy

empathy n. the power of entering into lớn another’s personality và imaginatively experiencing his experiences.

Chambers English Dictionary, 1989 edition

" awareness of others’ feelings, needs & concerns."

Daniel Goleman, in Working with Emotional Intelligence

"I Hotline hlặng religious who understands the suffering of others."

Mahatma Gandhi

"Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually."

Tlặng Minchin


Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, says that empathy is basically the ability to understvà others’ emotions. He also, however, notes that at a deeper cấp độ, it is about defining, understanding, & reacting to the concerns and needs that underlie others’ emotional responses và reactions.

As Tlặng Minchin noted, empathy is a skill that can be developed và, as with most interpersonal skills, empathising (at some level) comes naturally lớn most people.


Elements of Empathy

Daniel Goleman identified five key elements of empathy.

Understanding Others Developing Others Having a Service Orientation Leveraging Diversity Political Awareness

1. Understanding Others

This is perhaps what most people understvà by ‘empathy’: in Goleman’s words, “sensing others’ feelings và perspectives, và taking an active sầu interest in their concerns”. Those who vì this:

Show sensitivity, và underst& others’ perspectives.


Are able lớn help other people based on their understanding of those people’s needs & feelings.

All these are skills which can be developed, but only if you wish to bởi vì so. Some people may switch off their emotional antennae to lớn avoid being swamped by the feelings of others.

For example, there have sầu been a number of scandals in the National Health Service in the UK where nurses và doctors have sầu been accused of not caring about patients. It may be that they were so over-exposed khổng lồ patients’ needs, without suitable support, that they shut themselves off, for fear of being unable to lớn cope.

For more, see our page on Understanding Others.

2. Developing Others

Developing others means acting on their needs và concerns, & helping them to develop to their full potential. People with skills in this area usually:

There is also plenty about developing others on our Leadership Skills pages: look out in particular for Motivating Others, Creating a Motivational Environment, và Effective Team-Working Skills.

3. Having a Service Orientation

Primarily aimed at work situations, having a service orientation means putting the needs of customers first và looking for ways lớn improve their satisfaction and loyalty.

People who have sầu this approach will ‘go the extra mile’ for customers. They will genuinely understand customers’ needs, and go out of their way to help meet them.

In this way, they can become a ‘trusted advisor’ to customers, developing a long-term relationship between customer và organisation. This can happen in any industry, and any situation.


Mercedes Benz: No More Satisfied Customers

Mercedes-Benz, the car manufacturer, is no longer interested in achieving customer satisfaction.

That does not mean that customer experience is not important to lớn Mercedes. Quite the opposite. It means that customer experience is so important that satisfaction is not enough. Instead, the company wants its customers to lớn feel delighted by their experience with Mercedes.

The company’s president & CEO believe sầu that engaging Mercedes employees is key to lớn achieving that. For example, a recent company poll found that 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes. They are now being given the opportunity to bởi so, so that they can better empathise with customers, & therefore engage with them more effectively.


There are many non-work situations which require us lớn help others in some way, where putting their needs centre-stage may enable us to lớn see the situation differently and perhaps offer more useful tư vấn và assistance.

See our pages on Customer Service Skills and Customer Service Tips for more.

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4. Leveraging Diversity

Leveraging diversity means being able lớn create & develop opportunities through different kinds of people, recognising và celebrating that we all bring something different lớn the table.

Leveraging diversity does not mean that you treat everyone in exactly the same way, but that you tailor the way you interact with others to lớn fit with their needs & feelings.

People with this skill respect and relate well to lớn everyone, regardless of their background. As a general rule, they see diversity as an opportunity, understanding that diverse teams work much better than teams that are more homogeneous. Our pages on Group and Team RolesEffective Team-Working explain why diverse groups perform much better than homogeneous ones.

People who are good at leveraging diversity also challenge intolerance, bias & stereotyping when they see it, creating an atmosphere that is respectful towards everyone.


The Dangers of Stereotyping

Claude Steele, a psychologist at Stanford University, did a series of tests about stereotypes. He asked two groups of men và women to take a maths thử nghiệm. The first group was told that men usually did better in such tests than women. The second group was told nothing.

In the first group, where people had been reminded about the stereotype, the men performed significantly better than the women. There was no difference in the second group.

Steele suggested that being reminded of the stereotype activated emotional centres in the brain, resulting in anxiety among muốn the women, which affected their performance. This shows how dangerous stereotypes can be, and how they can have sầu a very real effect on performance.


For more about this skill, see our pages on Intercultural Awareness & Intercultural Communication.

5. Political Awareness

Many people view ‘political’ skills as manipulative, but in its best sense, ‘political’ means sensing & responding khổng lồ a group’s emotional undercurrents and power relationships.

Political awareness can help individuals to lớn navigate organisational relationships effectively, allowing them lớn achieve sầu where others may previously have sầu failed.

See our page on Political Awareness for more.

Empathy, Sympathy & Compassion

There is an important distinction between empathy, sympathy & compassion.

Both compassion và sympathy are about feeling for someone: seeing their dicăng thẳng và realising that they are suffering. Compassion has taken on an element of action that is lacking in sympathy, but the root of the words is the same.

Empathy, by contrast, is about experiencing those feelings for yourself, as if you were that person, through the power of imagination.

See our pages on Compassion & Sympathy for more.

Three Types of Empathy

Psychologists have identified three types of empathy: cognitive sầu empathy, emotional empathy & compassionate empathy.

Cognitive empathy is understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense. Emotional empathy is also known as emotional contagion, và is ‘catching’ someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too. Compassionate empathy is understanding someone’s feelings, và taking appropriate action to help.

For more about the different types of empathy, see our page on Types of Empathy.


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Further Reading from Skills You Need

Understanding & Developing Emotional Intelligence

Learn more about emotional intelligence & how to effectively manage personal relationships at trang chính, at work and socially.

Our eBooks are ikhuyến mãi for anyone who wants to lớn learn about or develop their interpersonal skills & are full of easy-to-follow, practical information.


Towards Empathy

It may not always be easy, or even possible, to lớn empathise with others but, through good people skills & some imagination, we can work towards more empathetic feelings.

Research has suggested that individuals who can empathise enjoy better relationships with others & greater well-being through life.


I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit -the ability to lớn put ourselves in someone else"s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us - the child who"s hungry, the steelworker who"s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came lớn town. When you think lượt thích this, when you choose lớn broaden your ambit of concern & empathise with the plight of others, whether they are cthua kém friends or distant strangers; it becomes harder not khổng lồ act; harder not to lớn help.