13 Jan What is empathy?
For example, your friend trips and falls and hurts her knee. You might say, “Ouch! I’m so sorry. Are you alright? I fell last week and it really hurt. Can I get you some ice?”
Not only were you able to understand the pain your friend likely felt, but you offered help, knowing what helped you. This is empathy. You probably show empathy all the time and don’t even know it!
An example that does NOT show empathy would be the following:
Te’andre is up at bat during 8th grade gym class. He is not much of an athlete and has a very pained look on his face. Randy watches him strike out and suddenly yells, “Te’andre, you’re such a loser! You could never play any sport, you total spastic joke of a person!”
Randy has neither empathy nor compassion for what Te’andre was feeling up at bat and striking out.
Quick: Which response to Randy shows empathy toward Te’andre:
1: Randy, that’s not nice. It likely hurt Te’andre’s feelings. How would you feel if someone did that to you?
2: Randy, you left out, “foolish”!
What’s compassion? It’s like a kissing cousin to empathy and also worth knowing about. According to dictionary.com, compassion is
Back to the ballgame with Randy and Te’andre:
Suddenly, Alissa walks up to Te’andre and says, “Don’t listen to that jerk. You did fine. Let’s go inside and work on that science project.”
Alissa showed compassion for what she imagined Te’andre was feeling after Randy ridiculed him for striking out.
In short, empathy is being able to understand what someone else is feeling and then relate to it, or even feel it yourself. It’s the first step toward compassion. Compassion is not only feeling what another person is feeling, but accepting it and wanting to do something about it.
Next, read why it’s important to have empathy….
What would you have felt watching a guy like Randy yell at a guy like Te’andre? Why? Would you have shown compassion or empathy? How?