Building advocacy networks for people

so that they have a good life even after their parents are no longer here to stand up for them

Building advocacy networks for people

so that their families have peace of mind about the future

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they are empowered to realise their aspirations and contribute to their community

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they form intentional friendships that broaden and enrich their lives

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they develop stronger links in the wider community

Building advocacy networks for people

so that they are as fulfilled and happy as they can be

01989 555006

Introduction to Empathy - July 2014

A: Some Questions About Empathy

What is it?

Why is empathy important?

Can I have empathy with someone even if I don’t agree with everything they say?

How can I develop empathy?

Can empathy ever be dangerous?

B: Three Kinds of Empathy

If you'd like to delve into this topic more deeply, you may be interested in the work of two psychologists, Dr Daniel Goleman and Dr Paul Ekman. Dr Goleman is a science journalist and author of more than 10 books, including Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence. Dr Ekman is also much published. The American Psychological Association has identified him as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century.

The quotes below come from a blog posted by Dr Goleman on the 12th June 20071. In this blog he summarised a long conversation with Dr Ekman, who described three distinct kinds of empathy:

Cognitive empathy means "knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes called perspective-taking, this kind of empathy can help in, say, a negotiation or in motivating people."

While this may sound attractive, we need to be aware that "there can be a dark side[...] - in fact, those who fall within the 'Dark Triad' - narcissists, Machiavellians and sociopaths (see Chapter 8 in Social Intelligence) - can be talented in this regard, while having no sympathy whatever for their victims."

Emotional empathy means feeling "along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious. This emotional contagion, social neuroscience tells us, depends in large part on the mirror neuron system (see Chapter Three in Social Intelligence). Emotional empathy makes someone well-attuned to another person’s inner emotional world".

This too has a downside. If you have trouble managing distressing emotions, you may find yourself becoming drained. This can lead to psychological exhaustion and eventually to burnout. "The purposeful detachment cultivated by those in medicine offers one way to inoculate against burnout. But the danger arises when detachment leads to indifference, rather than to well-calibrated caring.

Compassionate empathy means that "we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed. Paul told me about his daughter, who works as a social worker in a large city hospital. In her situation, he said, she can't afford to let emotional empathy overwhelm her. 'My daughter's clients don't want her to cry when they're crying,' as he put it. 'They want her to help them figure out what to do now - how to arrange a funeral, how to deal with the loss of a child.'"

This kind of empathy has also been described as empathic concern - see Chapter Six in Social Intelligence.