What is empathy?
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What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while and to see the world though their eyes! It means being able to suspend judgement, share their values and see things from their perspective. Empathy is different from sympathy and doesn’t mean feeling sorry for them. But it does mean being able to understand what they are thinking and feeling. You are able to establish trust.
Four different levels of Empathy
Usually empathy is described as being at four different levels of closeness.
Level 0 is when there is no evidence that you understand other person’s thoughts or feelings. This can be despite the efforts of the person to explain what they are thinking and feeling. It can be shown most obviously by callous and unthinking remarks
Level 1 is when you have some understanding but at a very superficial level. There is only partial understanding and the other person can feel confused and be lacking in trust as a result.
Level 2 is when you show understanding and acceptance. But you don’t have complete understanding or acceptance. Perhaps you don’t “approve” of an opinion the other person expesses instead of quietly accepting that that is their view even though it isn’t yours.
Level 3 means you have complete understanding and acceptance for another’s feelings and thoughts. Accepting that someone thinks and feels in a particular way, does not mean that you automatically approve of all behaviour they think is justified as a result. But it does mean that you can communicate with them and may be able to influence them in a positive way. It provides a basis for trust.
You cannot be truly empathetic with someone without listening and observing verbal and body messages. You then show through your own voice and body language that you have understood. In other words you have to listen actively.
The ability to show empathy is important in building strong relaionships at home and at work. An empathetic manager is far more likely to lead their team to success and to create a happy workplace.
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Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in helping people lead happier lives and feel more fulfilled. She has worked in management as well as coaching and personal development, as well as starting up her own businesses. That means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up a new business or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues.
Need help finding work, with problems at work, at home or with relationships? Book a FREE coaching session with Wendy or find out more at this link