Emotional empathy is the ability to understand other people’s feelings and ideals by adopting their perspectives, or in other words, putting yourself in their place.
The development of empathy allows the construction of social bonds and the ability to relate, so it should be considered as a fundamental basis of our emotional intelligence.
Below we delve deeper into knowing this cognitive ability, its characteristics and how to develop it.
What is emotional empathy?
Emotional empathy for authors such as Blanca Rodas in her project entitled “Cognitive empathy and the development of social skills“, is defined as an indispensable skill allowing them to modify their emotional processes to appropriate ones in order to expand their social competence.
In this sense, emotional empathy is a key and fundamental factor that pushes us to success both professionally and in everyday life in general.
Creating a bond to connect the possibility of one day being in the situation of the other, allows us to create a genuine connection to identify the aptitude in question and sustain the expression of feelings and emotions.
It should be noted that it is not only to understand the process that another person is going through, but to recognize how and why they feel in a certain way and intervene if necessary to improve their mood.
In addition to that, the importance of empathy is emphasized because there is a social need for it to be contained among the important universal values, where they stand out: justice, respect, freedom, equality, etc.
Characteristics of emotional empathy
We know how easy it is to talk about empathy, but not how complicated it is to find a person with these capabilities. In fact, it is pathologically recognized that empathy can be linked to cultural, educational, and even genetic aspects.
So, we mention and explain below the main characteristics of this ability to understand it and above all, put it into practice.
It is putting yourself in the place of others
In the CEDIN Consultants Blog there is an article on Emotional Intelligence and Empathy , where they explain that the willingness to listen and understand actions and emotions from respect is required.
It is then how we understand that empathy is oriented towards understanding a position, to make the experience and acceptance of a situation easier without minimizing it.
It is not possible to fully understand another individual, but from our perspective we extrapolate ourselves and help manage experiences by providing emotional support.
The emotion of others is shared
Empathy not only covers negative situations, although they are the most mentioned due to the demand they have. Empathy is also sharing achievements and motivational experiences.
A person with empathy is not motivated by selfishness, and in fact they are oriented towards the purpose that everyone around them be successful or benefit from the circumstances.
You feel concern in response to the pain of others
Anarticle titled”What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and empathy” was published at the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia ? “, where they explain the existence of a type of empathy that can be recognized as emotional.
This type of empathy, then, is one that allows us to tune into the feelings of another and generate in us responses of sadness or concern, in the face of someone’s need.
Compassion is recognized as an emotional response and thanks to which a desire or need to help can develop.
That is why the link with empathy disposes not to evade pain but to accompany it to face it. He then shakes hands with the closeness between these human capacities.
It is formed from the environment and genetics
A study developed at the University of Cambridge explains that there is a higher level of empathy in women than in men, and that certain genetic pathologies such as autism or schizophrenia decrease or limit the individual’s ability to put themselves in another’s place.
This capacity is located in the frontal areas of the brain and are important for the cognitive functions of the human being, soDiego Redoral, professor of Health Science Studies at theOpen University of Catalonia, explains how brain circuits are those that influence the ability or absence of it to be empathetic.
Allows you to develop successful relationships
Maite Garaigordobil and Patricia Garcia de Galdeano in their study”Empathy in children from 10 to 12 years old”, confirm that empathy allows positive social behaviors developing assertiveness, leadership and emotional stability, which affects until their adult life and allows the improvement of interpersonal relationships, being real, warm and psychosocially beneficial.
Allows adaptation to the environment
Empathy and adaptation are tools that will help us improve the quality of our lives. Both allow us to respect and accept differences so we develop a more assertive process and allow functional diversity.
Social empathy, although it is usually more scarce due to the alertness programming that we have been instilled in, is necessary to accept changes and avoid unnecessary damage.
Causes changes in the brain
Empathy and the ability we have to feel in another’s place is reflected in mirror neurons, so this explains how emotions are contagious.
In addition to that, there are studies carried out at Monash University , which show a result where most people with empathic abilities have a higher concentration of gray matter in the central part of the brain.
The Study considers that the degree of gray matter density is relative to your levels of cognitive empathy or affective empathy.
It is key to assertive communication
It is propitious to consider that assertiveness and empathy go hand in hand. In fact, it is considered impossible to be assertive without being empathic.
A communication with interest in the feelings and needs of the other, is what allows the ability to correctly transmit our position.
For the study of the National Council for Teaching in Research in Psychology entitled ” Empathy, assertive communication and monitoring of norms “, a methodology is proposed operationally so that communication skills are developed through empathy. These are:
- Show respect
- To be on time
- Avoid using electronic devices during a conversation
How to develop emotional empathy?
Although we have explained that empathy comes from genetic reasons, we also understand that this is the disposition and possibility, plus we must put it into practice to develop it and understand the social need we have for this ability.
Empathy comes as a wonderful quality that can be enhanced, and it begins to develop from childhood with the affective needs that are covered by our family nucleus. Next we will expose techniques to foster our empathy.
Learning to listen
Listen carefully, show interest and learn to use the two hemispheres of the brain on these occasions: both the Rationaland the emotional. Being present and not underestimating the situation or comparing it to our problem or counterarguing.
Learning to listen and apply active listening is the only way that places us in the correct position, to be attentive to what the other person seeks to convey with their gestures and emotions.
Respecting the criteria of others
Respect is definitely one of the skills that develops when empathy is put into practice. In the socio-educational intervention project entitled” Empathy, respect and responsibility as social skills to develop “ , the way in which this application enriches the social skills of individuals is exposed.
All the objectives are to seek the valorization of both the opinions and the existing differences, without judging or comparing.
Showing interest in the needs of others
As we have previously defined, empathy is characterized by having the ability to understand the emotional life of another person, so putting it into practice leads to developing feelings and interest in the needs of others.
It is part of the social aptitude that GolemanYou describe: “It is the self-awareness of the potential to recognize feelings both of one’s own and others, the strength to motivate oneself, with the aim of improving emotions, and relationships with others.”
As we previously described based on the research on ” Empathy, assertive communication and following norms “ , the use of correct communication and active listening promotes the development of life skills and social potentiality.
In fact, it is described as a generic ability that enables the individual to resolve situations at an interpersonal level.
Aggressive responses in a person are usually related to mental traits, and empathy develops understanding positioning facing a double focus. Putting ourselves then in the other’s situation, we stop judging them and begin to understand them.
Being tolerant and patient
Empathy is the first step to tolerance. In fact,Mahatma GandhiSaid:“Three quarters of the misery and misunderstanding in the world would end if people put themselves in the shoes of their adversaries and understood their point of view.”
Tolerance is the acceptance of the diversity of opinions or criteria that each individual can develop, and with this we protect the fundamental rights of each person.
Keeping calm and quiet
Empathy usually requires calm and tranquility to be able to sensitively detect the messages or feelings that the other person is trying to convey. It facilitates the perception of the circumstances and extends the possibility of controlling the situation and allowing the other individual to be influenced by our objectivism and understanding.
Importance of emotional empathy
Empathy increases our possibilities to develop healthy interpersonal relationships, and opens the window of potentiality for us to learn and understand things that we have ignored over time.
It allows us to be human, to be aware and to modify our behavior or position on many issues. Therefore, empathy is definitely a quality and ability that allows us to easily develop our emotional intelligence, allowing us to open up to sensitivity.
In addition to the aforementioned, empathy develops emotional maturity and positions us at emotional points that will increase confidence to face situations and problems even when they are not ours.