Empathy, as defined by the Miriam-Webster dictionary, is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”
Within clinical, coaching, and online self-improvement discussions, empathy emerges as a consistent talking point. To better understand recent social awareness, we turned to our very own Clinical Director, Dr. Kristen Zaleski, Ph.D., LCSW for a qualified point of view.
DR. ZALESKI, WHAT IS EMPATHY?
In my own work and research with empathy, I believe it to be ultimately a three-step process.
First seeing the struggle in another human.
Second, look inward and relate to how that struggle is recognized by your own emotional self.
Third, convey that felt sense of the emotional struggle back to the person in whom you first observed it.
ARE YOU BORN EMPATHIC OR CAN YOU LEARN TO BE EMPATHETIC?
One key feature of developing this aspect of human understanding is to have it taught to you, most often by empathic caregivers.
First in receiving someone else\’s empathy.
Second, by being taught how to use your own gift of vulnerability and self-compassion.
Third, give it to others– especially your own kids.
I make my recommendations based on these three foundational aspects of what I believe to be key ingredients to be an empathic human.
DO YOU HAVE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EMPATHETIC LEARNING?
I do. Here are a few authors’ books that I respect and recommend;
Kristen Neff, Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping meaningful connection and the Language of Human Experience.
Michele Borba, UnSelfie: Why empathic kids succeed in our all about me world.