Empathy: definition, signs, how to get it?

In psychology, empathy refers to the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes in order to perceive what they are feeling. Is it a quality or a defect? And how do you show empathy? Lighting with Mariette Strub-Delain, occupational psychologist, and Anne Landry, psychoanalyst specializing in empathic hypersensitivity.

Definition: what is empathy?

The word empathy comes from the Latin in, “in” Where “in“, and from the Greek pathos,”what we feel” Where “suffering. “It is defined as the ability to perceive and understand what another is feelinghis emotional state (affective empathy) or his point of view, his beliefs, his intentions (cognitive empathy) and this, while maintaining his own psychological integrity” defines Mariette Strub-Delain, psychologist It is therefore to resonate with the other without putting himself in his place. There are two levels of empathy: affective and cognitive but also primal empathy. “It sometimes manifests itself in the form of emotional contagion, that is to say when we observe a person and we react in a largely involuntary way by imitating, without being aware of it, the postures, facial expressions or other behaviors of this person. last. We have all experienced this, when we look at a person eating and by mimicrywe reproduce the same movements of the mouth” explains the psychologist.

What are the signs of an empathetic person?

Empathetic people have qualities and skills that are unique to them. They often have a good esteem for them but are also observant and curious about each other.Being able to welcome the other unconditionally, practicing active listening, regulating one’s emotions and having imagination are other indicators” emphasizes Mariette Strub-Delain. Empathetic people also have a developed listening skills.They go have the right word and the right gesture. They have a emotional and social intelligence and are concerned about what is happening in the world and around them“says Anne Landry, psychoanalyst. “When a person is going to show a strong emotion, empathetic people will show that they understand and make the person understand that they are not alone. They will show their interest by the look or the gesture and interact with the other. She also have need to commit. Thus, we find them in specific branches of trades: the professions where they accompany, where they engage and in trades in contact with animals. “We find, for example, a lot of empathy among nurses who give a lot of their person and who are very available but also among psychotherapists and at the psychologists. Without forgetting the artists and people whose profession is linked to the defense of a cause such as childhood, women or ecology“analyzes the psychoanalyst.

Is empathy a quality or a defect?

Everything is one measurement issue ! From this perspective, empathy is therefore neither a defect nor a quality. Thus, having too little or no empathy can become problematic. L’empathy “just” is the one that makes us resonate with the other. Empathy is therefore essential because “it allows you to know and understand the other, to know yourself better, to avoid assumptions and erroneous opinions, toincrease your tolerance level and build more harmonious relationships with others” emphasizes the psychologist. It also promotes behaviors such as caring and sharing. “Being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and say to yourself “I wouldn’t like to go through this, I’m not going to inflict it on them” and act towards others as you would like to do with yourself contributes to species survival and group cohesion” continues Mariette Strub-Delain. However, it is necessary to maintain a distance between what the other feels or thinks and what we feel. “If there is confusion between me and the other, I can be carried away by his emotion. We will then talk about emotional contagion. This boarding can lead to a burnout (that is to say to an exhaustion) which affects in particular the nursing staff in hospitals” warns the psychologist. The risk is then overinterpret or misinterpret what the other thinks, which can lead to misunderstandings or even tensions or conflicts.

“Each night before bed, review your day and write down the three actions you are proud of, for 21 days”

Good news ! Empathy is learned. More precisely, she works herself. “She is built in childhood but it is always possible to develop it and cultivate it explains the psychologist. To show empathy (or improve it), it “enough” to cultivate the qualities and skills mentioned above such as listening, the ability to welcome others and the strengthening ofself esteem. To strengthen self-esteem, it is possible to practice exercises such as “pride” explains the psychologist. “Every night before bed, review your day and write down the three actions you are proud of for 21 days to establish this habit.” advises Mariette Strub Delain. For the specialist, practicing CNV, that is to say the non-violent communicationis another track. “It is the authentic expression of empathetic listening that allows discern what one feels, one’s need and to hear and reformulate the emotions and needs of one’s interlocutor“explains the psychologist. Finally, to develop empathy, being interested in others is essential.If you have the opportunity to cross paths with strangers, why not get in touch and seek to get to know each other. Ask them questions to discover them, understand them. I guarantee you great encounters and great surprises“.

Thanks to Mariette Strub-Delain, psychologist and Anne Landry, psychoanalyst.

Empathy: definition, signs, how to get it?