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  • Writer's pictureMarion Henson

The Three Types of Empathy

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Growing up as a kid, my dad would always tell my sister and me to" Walk a mile in someone else's shoes." It is easy to disconnect your feelings, thoughts, and emotions to judge, but it takes compassion, the ability to hold space for others, and selflessness to feel, think and understand someone else's perspective.

I learned that Empathy is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone. It is an emotionally mature reaction to an experience. It should be explored and protected. Empathy can be misused, but it is a strength. From my personal experience learning to implement a healthy balance is especially crucial for people who identify as Empaths or as Highly Sensitive Person ( HSP). It is essential to develop a sense of Empathy and teach your children/ others around you how to show Empathy when needed.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to feel, understand, or relate to something another person is experiencing. It is the ability to hold space for someone else. It is the loving act of listening from a non-judgmental place of compassion. What would you want someone to say? Do? Or Not do for you while you experience a stressful situation like loss or grief? Empathy is not only what we may say or think, but it is a combination of perspective-taking, emotional support, and compassion in whatever form you can provide. There are three types of empathy Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.

The Three Types of Empathy

Cognitive Empathy (Perspective Taking) - being able to see the situation from someone else's perspective.

Emotional Empathy ( Emotional Contagion) - feeling the person's emotions as they feel them.

Compassionate Empathy - feeling someone's pain and taking action to help.

Ways to Practice Empathy

We can all practice Empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is the ability to sense and feel connected to the emotions, thoughts, and hurt someone may be experiencing.

Cognitive or Perspective Taking is a process of reflection. Take the time to look at a situation without being overtaken with emotions, Explore what the person may be experiencing and how they may be thinking about what they are experiencing.

Emotional Empathy is the ability to feel for someone else and feel their actual emotion at that time. You may be in the same room or on the phone and experience the emotional energy of the situation. Take the time to feel what is emotionally taking place and hold space way through it.

Compassionate Empathy - you feel their pain and it softens your heart. You can offer to help. They may need to feel supported emotionally, physically, or in other ways. Help in the way that feels the most authentic to you. Be genuine and transparent when offering help. Showing Empathy requires a healthy balance.

Maintain a Healthy Balance

Whenever Empathy weighs too much on either side, it can become a battle and a mess. The help and good intentions set forth may get lost. Assess what your boundaries are when practicing Empathy. How are you able to support the individual while still showing up and staying consistent in the other areas of your life?

Final Thoughts

Empathy is vital to support kindness and compassion.

We should all be kind and display Empathy because we are all fighting battles. We all have scars and stories we don't share. When you see someone down, try to lift them. Try to understand and see things from their eyes. Try to feel their pain. Learn to embrace another person entirely. Learn to love deeper. We are all connected.


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