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The Psychology of Empathy

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Empathy is an essential part of emotions and is itself a specific emotion involving a feeling element of familiarity or connection and a bodily reaction of verbal or non verbal communication. Empathy in general would mean feeling what the other person is feeling and "being in the shoes of the other'. Empathy creates emotional link and involvement and could be between lovers, family members, friends, or even strangers. Empathy relates to connectedness and a sense of just knowing what another person is feeling. Some individuals are simply more empathetic than others whereas some individuals could find it hard to relate. Some questions that psychology would deal with are what creates empathy and why are some individuals more empathetic than others.

Empathy or a feeling of connectedness and being in the shoes of others, is closely related to intuition as intuition helps in the understanding and recognition of emotions in others. Even if emotions are covert and not manifested, empathy helps in identifying these emotions through intuition. Empathy is thus described as recognizing other people's emotions through intuition and is marked by a feeling of connecting to the other person.

In any leadership situation such as in political leadership and social leadership, it is necessary for leaders to feel certain degree of empathy with the other members of the group as the leaders have to feel connected to the followers to make an impact in their opinions and decisions. Teachers also have to feel empathy with the students as this creates a connectedness without which the teaching experience is meaningless both for the teachers and the students. Empathy is about motivating or influencing the other person by tapping in on his or her emotions. It is easier to influence or change people if you are keenly aware of what they are thinking or feeling as this helps to predict the possible responses. Finally we have understanding of other people only when we are able to predict their responses and empathy adds a predictive quality to the interaction.

Stages of Empathy

It could be said that empathy begins with intuition and ends with prediction is which one person is able to predict the emotional responses of the other. The stages of empathy are thus given as:

1. Intuition

2. Connection

3. Consideration

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Saberi Roy is a writer/poet/analyst/political commentator/psychologist and writes on science, arts, psychology, religions, politics and philosophy. She has Masters degrees in Philosophy (MA), in Psychology (MSc) and in Consciousness Studies with QM (more...)
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