Compassion and empathy are two different emotional responses. Compassion is defined as understanding
someone’s suffering and trying to alleviate it. Empathy is feeling another’s emotions, understanding exactly how they feel, and “knowing” what they are going through.
Empathy allows us to understand and share what others are going through. As humans, we often try to put ourselves in
someone else’s shoes. By attempting to understand it firsthand, it allows us to have a better insight into how someone is struggling and how we might be helpful.
Cognitive empathy involves having knowledge about another person’s mind and how they feel. With cognitive empathy, you can put yourself in someone’s place, without getting emotional yourself. For example, if you are a manager and have cognitive empathy, you can understand the emotions of those who work with you without letting your emotions get in the way and/or cloud your judgment.
Emotional empathy is when you take on another’s emotion as your own. With emotional empathy, you feel the same emotions as the person who is telling you what is happening to them, be it positive or negative. With emotional empathy, you need to focus on self-control to avoid emotional exhaustion.
How do you cultivate empathy? We have always been cultivating empathy! When we were toddlers, we started smiling, laughing, touching, and crying in response to others. These are all signs of empathy. If these signs were encouraged,
empathy was cultivated. If they were discouraged, empathy was less developed.
Can you be too empathetic? Yes! Showing empathy is an amazing way to allow someone to open up and discuss their concerns. It also allows you to put yourself in their place to fully understand the situation. However, as mentioned above, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can cause emotional burnout. If this happens, stop and look objectively at that is happening and refocus on what brings you joy and pleasure!