What is empathy?

What is empathy and what is not?

In this video by Oliver Heuler it becomes clear how awkward we sometimes react when someone tells us about his worries. In order to raise awareness of what empathy is and that there is a need for learning in this area, some examples are given of what reactions look like without empathy.

The following situation: Walburga tells a colleague about the last meeting with the boss.
Various reactions of the colleague are shown. In the first example, he teaches his colleague instead of reacting empathically. This comment does not help Walburga at this moment, nor does the reaction in the second example, in which Mr Giesbart begins to psychologically analyse Walburga's feelings.

We probably all know the other examples and show ourselves what empathy is not: we would like to comfort and support the other person: we play down the situation or encourage our counterpart. Often we also have good tips at hand. In the vernacular, it is also said that advice is also a stroke. All these reactions often lead to the person who is currently talking feeling that they are not being understood. Often, this means that the person is even more frustrated than before and may not be looking for a conversation in the next situation.

What is sympathy, what is empathy and what is the difference?

Another category of reaction options is sympathy. Empathy and sympathy are often confused. The examples show exactly what sympathy is. These include: expressions of sympathy, but also the presenting of one's own concerns and prejudgments.

The other examples show how the potential empathy provider focuses on the needs of the boss. Here, too, some situations are probably known: one analyzes the boss, shows himself sensitively with him, justifies his behavior and his reaction. All of this can also lead to the other person being even more frustrated after the conversation than before. You probably also know it when you talk about a situation and your counterpart first makes it clear to you that the situation was quite different, that you have completely misunderstood or interpreted what has been said.

How can you really react sensitively?

Empathy is about focusing on the current feelings and needs of the other person. How is the narrator doing? What does it need? What would she have liked in the situation? Only when the person has gotten enough empathy, he or she may be willing to listen to solutions or be empathetic with the boss.