Expressing Empathy is Good for Your Mental Health
What's the difference between sympathy and empathy? Empathy is being able to share in someone else's feelings and emotions and show concern towards that person. It is different from showing sympathy, as that requires feeling sorry or pity on the other person. Sympathy keeps the person at a distance, while someone expressing empathy towards another allows them to really step in and take hold of the other person's feelings. Some people are better showing empathy and compassion than others, and there are those who just cannot show it at all.
"I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it." Maya Angelou
According to psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.
- Cognitive Empathy: The ability to understand how someone is feeling or what they are thinking.
- Emotional or Affective Empathy: You share in the emotions of others.
- Compassionate Empathy or Empathic Concern: You take action or encourage the person to take action for how they are feeling.
"It is very important to show empathy in all aspects of our lives, and the ability to do so is not genetic, it's a learned skill," explained Lisa Romano, LPC, ACS, Director of Outpatient and IOP Services. "Being empathetic is beneficial to all our relationships, including personal, at work and even to new relationships we develop. It makes others feel important and at the same time, you will be thought of as a caring and valuable person to others."
You may be empathetic, but there are always ways to improve this skill to benefit yourself and others. Here are 3 ways to increase empathy while improving overall well being for yourself and those you care about:
- Read. By reading books you enter into a different world and learn new cultures, customs, and human experiences. This opens up your mind to accepting others that are different then you and how they think about things.
- Listen. By actively listening to what others have to say, we develop a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings.
- Accept differences. Not everyone thinks the same way. We all have different beliefs and attitudes. Learning to accept this makes us more open to supporting others and offering them help.
Romano added, "Being able to show concern for the well-being of others is a skill we must develop, although some of us are better at doing so than others. The ability to show true caring for those around us is an important part of of social relationships, which are important in our lives. But, we must remember while caring for others, we must care for ourselves as well. We cannot neglect our own feelings, wants and needs."
If you or any member of the family feel overwhelmed and need someone to talk to, our clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers can help.
Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.