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sumsum7777's avatar

What is empathy?

Asked by sumsum7777 (33 points ) December 12th, 2010

What ever you think empathy is, or what you have experienced to be empathy.

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12 Answers

momnipotence's avatar

Empathy is seeing a child try something for the millionth time only to fail again and then see in his eyes that, yes, he is really trying, he just can’t do it, and feel in your heart the feeling of sadness knowing he may never be able to do what he just attempted…that is my definition of empathy.

filmfann's avatar

When you can feel someone’s struggle, pain, or anxiety.

CaptainHarley's avatar

When you can actually feel what another person is feeling, perhaps not as strongly as he or she might, but to a significant degree.

ninjacolin's avatar

I’m imagining a triage nurse with only 1 doctor and 3 patients who places them in the proper order for care so that all 3 patients get the best possible attention given the situation. I’m imagining it being a situation where if the triage nurse got the urgency of the patients wrong, it could have lead to one of their deaths or undue suffering.

Knowing the seriousness of the afflictions goes beyond what the patients themselves are aware of. The patients simply want everything to go well, they don’t want to go ahead of someone who will have to die for it but they don’t want to feel pain for any longer than they have to either. They are empathetic to the needs of the strangers in the room as well as with the triage nurse who asks them to sit and wait.

A lack of empathy would look like a patient who is arguing with the triage nurse. Either the nurse isn’t able to comprehend the urgency of the patient’s needs or the patient isn’t able to comprehend the urgency of the other patient’s needs.

Anyway.. there’s a lot to work with in that metaphor but it’s making me think empathy essentially come down to agreement between your mind and another’s in terms of urgency over a given matter.

flutherother's avatar

Empathy is realising that you are not contained within a bag of skin.

whitenoise's avatar

I feel that it is a dedicated function of our brains that allows us to feel emotions / feelings that are similar to the ones we mat expect to be present with the person / animal / object we are observing. (Feeling empathy for.)

In a way our brains will try to get in-sync with the object of our empathy.

BoBo1946's avatar

Empathy is the ability to “walk in another man’s shoes!”

wundayatta's avatar

Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. Often this is an unconscious process, but we train ourselves and our children to do it, too. “Would you want someone to do that to you?” In order to answer that question, you have be able to imagine what the other person is feeling. Empathy is an extension or component of the Golden Rule.

If you’ve never experienced something that the person you want to empathize with, it’s a bit harder. For example, depression is something that is very difficult for people who have never experienced it to imagine. My wife has never experienced it. She tries to empathize with me, but there is only so far she can go

So empathy generally requires some experience with what the other person is experiencing. You can empathize without have felt it, but the amount of empathy you can provide if you’ve been there is twenty times more.

I think that our facial expressions and body language are ways of both conveying the need for and conveying empathy. By mimicking someone else’s facial expressions, we can feel what the other person is feeling. It goes both ways. A physical movement can both express meaning outward and inward. Put your body in a posture, and you’ll feel the feeling. Just as if you feel the feeling, your body assumes the posture.

Empathy works both cognitively and physically. It is what helps us feel connected to others, and to know who is on “our team.” It is a very powerful tool.

Sunny2's avatar

I think it is about feeling and understanding what another person is feeling. You may not have had the same experiences, but you can feel the other person’s pain or joy or confusion etc. I don’t know if it’s a talent, a blessing, or a nuisance.

edwinrutsch's avatar

here’s a list of definitions for empathy. The word is used in at least 8 different ways in common usage.
http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Definitions.htm

at Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
http://cultureofempathy.com/
The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews, videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

iamthemob's avatar

I would say that one of the best ways to think about empathy is that it’s the opposite of prejudice.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I would have said that tolerance is the opposite of prejudice. Empathy is the ability to feel the feelings of all people, regardless.

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