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What is empathy

The concept in question appeared thanks to the research of the American psychologist E. Titchener.


- this is a response, an acute internal reaction to the feelings and emotions of other people. This is the ability to understand and see what is happening psychologically with an opponent, the ability to feel his experiences.

Each of us has the ability to empathize; it is innate. Remember the child’s behavior: the mother laughs and he laughs, the mother bursts into tears and the child sheds tears. With age, this quality disappears or becomes less pronounced in most of us, as self-defense mechanisms against negative emotions are activated.

Empathy is activated when someone around a person experiences negative emotions: sadness, sadness, fear. A sensitive person in such a situation also begins to worry and tries to provide support.

Sensitive people react sharply to not only reality events. They know how to put themselves in the shoes of a book character or a movie hero, feel his feelings, and cry when watching the corresponding scenes.

Psychology considers two types of empaths


  • People who are good at reading the emotions and states of others, but at the same time internally remain cold and rational. Such people can be dangerous because, having studied a person, they can begin to manipulate and use another.
  • Those who not only see the opponent’s psyche, but also feel his pain or confusion as their own.

The concept of the second type is the most common and is accepted as the basis. In our article we will talk about highly sensitive people who sincerely empathize with others.

Types of empathy in psychology

Particular sensitivity to the inner world of others is classified into the following types.

Rational or intellectual (cognitive)

In this form, the state of the individual is, first of all, subject to analysis and study. We compare a person's actions with his actions and knowledge of how people act when experiencing the corresponding emotions.

This type is based on the experience of similar experiences by humans. His facial expressions, gestures, gaze, and voice are of great importance in determining the state of another individual. From them you can tell what a person is experiencing. However, it is important to be able to “read” non-verbal symbols so as not to make mistakes.

The cognitive form of empathy helps in personal and business communications and allows you to achieve what you want by understanding the personality of your opponent.


Based on the mechanism of mental infection. There are particularly sensitive individuals who literally read the emotional state of their interlocutor. There is a deep immersion into the inner state of another person.

Such people have a special nervous system and can experience the pain of others as their own personal tragedy. It is not surprising that they experience significant emotional and nervous overload.

Any story about a catastrophe that has occurred in the world can plunge them into a state of prolonged experience of tragedy and compassion for strangers.

Intuitive (predicative)

This type presupposes the ability to anticipate, predict the reactions and emotions of interlocutors. A person understands in advance how his partner will react to one or another of his actions.

A predictive empath not only understands the internal state, he is aware of the motives of actions. Therefore, he tries to act in such a way as not to disturb the psychological comfort of another person.

A person may have the properties of empathy of one, two or all three types. There are individuals who do not understand the moods of other people at all and do not spare their personal inner world, i.e. have no empathy.

What are the differences that are significant in everyday life?

Cognitive and emotional empathy are similar to the two poles of the Earth. That is, despite the fact that both are incredibly similar, they are opposites. This is very important in everyday life. For example, a person with a developed cognitive gift will never be able to feel comfortable or live under the same roof next to an emotional empath. Of course, this statement is only true for those people who are endowed with the “pure” gift of empathy at a very high level.

A cognitive empath is devoid of emotions, he is ready to perceive the point of view of another person, realize it and understand the feelings he experiences, while accurately predicting the behavior and actions of the interlocutor. For example, seeing a woman in new shoes, looking around and rubbing her foot, such an empath will conclude that the woman will find a bench, sit down, take off her shoes and cover the callus with a plaster. This conclusion is a consequence of a chain of inferences, and not of sensory perception.

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An emotional empath does not think, he feels and needs sensory interaction with an object. Finding himself in a similar situation, this man will literally feel pain in his legs while looking at the woman, approach her and offer his help. Emotional empathy does not involve the mind, but communication, sensations, and exchange of experiences.

Of course, in life this quality is very rarely found in a “pure”, homogeneous form. Most people are endowed with both cognitive and emotional forms of empathy.

What signs indicate the existence of empathy?

Signs of empathy are


Full readiness to support

Each of us may need support and comfort. There are many difficult and unforeseen situations in life, and not everyone is ready to endure them steadfastly and adequately. Having a strong shoulder nearby, capable of not only sympathizing, but also providing real help, is one of the conditions for overcoming the crisis and minimizing psychological trauma.

A person with a high level of empathy always strives to help, to do everything in his power. He will arrive at night to give you a pill, he will rush to pick up a comrade who has gone on a spree from the police, and he will not leave a dog or other animal to die on the road.

Without receiving any return in return, such an individual still continues to do good deeds, thereby strengthening his self-esteem.

Ability to hear your interlocutor

We have met people who like to talk only about themselves and their problems. They will listen to us reluctantly and again turn the topic to their loved ones.

If there is empathy, a person notices our every word. There is not even a shadow of condemnation in it, there are no moral teachings or moralizations. Even if a morally bad act is committed, an empath will find the right words and support.

The interlocutor understands that his problems are important and significant, which means he himself is interesting and needed. A sincere person will always give real and useful advice based on what he hears.

Sincere sympathy

Empathy involves sincere and open empathy. You can give advice and help with a cold heart, without being imbued with the misfortune of another. And you can feel the pain as if it were your own.

Highly empathetic individuals can suffer no less than their wards, forget about peace and sleep until the situation is resolved. They cry when experiencing touching or tragic scenes from films, and then cannot forget them for a long time.

Which one is more important?

Although cognitive and emotional empathy are often contrasted, both forms are needed in everyday life. Showing emotions is not always required, but pure logic is also rarely required.

With the help of cognitive empathy, you can understand your interlocutor, grasp the essence of his reasoning, understand the motives driving him and predict further actions. This skill can be indispensable in working relationships, when running your own business or communicating with your superiors. This quality also helps a lot in career growth. It will come in handy even when attending a parent-teacher meeting at school, especially if the child is not averse to misbehaving.

Emotional empathy is necessary when communicating with friends; it is needed to create and maintain a special, warm and trusting atmosphere in the family. You cannot do without emotional empathy when caring for a small child or an elderly person.

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Accordingly, the best and most relevant thing in everyday life is the combination of these qualities, and not their opposition.

Is it possible to develop empathy?

If you wish, empathy can be cultivated in yourself.

This should be done for several reasons


  • it will become much easier to negotiate with other people in the professional sphere;
  • there will be an opportunity to have close friends nearby;
  • self-esteem will be increased;
  • empathy gives rise to creativity and creativity;
  • An empath is very difficult to deceive; he senses insincerity.

Uncontrolled aggression

Empathy can cause sudden anger and anger in a person if he mistakenly believes that his loved one is in danger. For example, a mother noticed how a casually dressed and untrustworthy adult man “looked at” her teenage daughter in a park or on a bus. And although there was nothing in the stranger's facial expression or movements that would lead us to believe that he intended to harm the girl in any way, the mother was furious. She was angry that the man could even think about what to do with the child. That is why aggression and empathy in psychology have been dubbed “existential twins.”

Advice from psychologists on strengthening the ability to be compassionate

If for some reason you lack such a trait as empathy, practice the following skills


  • Get to know yourself and your feelings, reflect
    . In the evening, you can think about what events the day was filled with, what emotions you experienced in a given situation.
  • Every word heard from another person should reach the heart, understand what the person is saying
    . Listen carefully.
  • Become an actor
    . Imagine yourself in the role of this or that hero, try to understand his emotions.
  • Do not refuse to help colleagues, friends or loved ones
    . If they ask for your advice, then listen and help.
  • Pets are very good at awakening frozen empathy
    . Every adequate person, at the sight of kittens and puppies, has feelings of tenderness, kindness, and a desire to protect.

The main condition for the development of compassion is the ability to love, to experience kind feelings towards the whole world. If you have fear, anger, malice, and selfishness in your soul, then you won’t be able to become an empath even if you follow all the tips listed above.


Empathy or the ability to empathize is one of the key components of quality communication. This ability is laid down in genes and develops in childhood, but even now you can train it. Here are 6 science-backed ways:

  • Practice mindfulness - it literally changes your brain.
  • Connect with people from other social groups.
  • Practice active listening skills.
  • Read fiction.
  • Communicate under stress.
  • Make new friends and play video games with them.

These simple but effective methods will help you learn to better understand other people. How important do you think empathy is for modern people? Write your opinion in the comments!

We also recommend reading:

  • Storytelling
  • Circle of Empathy
  • Guide to mindfulness: what it is, what it is for and how to practice it
  • Five ways to evaluate a service
  • "A Whole New Mind": a book about six necessary abilities
  • 6 Skills to Develop Emotional Intelligence
  • BRAIN digest
  • Why we like getting likes
  • Emotional Intelligence in Leadership
  • Reflections on Friendship
  • Six Key Principles of Effective Communication

Key words:1Communication

Positive and negative sides of empathy

In the article, we have already talked about the positive aspects of empathy: success in negotiations, a positive emotional climate at home and at work, and good self-esteem.

But, like any thing, empathy has a reverse, “dark” side, namely


  1. Strong emotional and nervous stress
    . A person constantly passes through the problems and pain of others as if it were his own business. He suffers, worries, wastes his energy and emotions.
  2. Strong empaths take responsibility for everything in the world

    . They believe that they are obligated to help everyone, and if this does not work out, they feel guilty. The desire to help extends not only to family and friends, but also to strangers.

  3. A person suffers from an extreme degree of altruism, i.e. helping others to the detriment of oneself

    . In this regard, their problems and troubles accumulate, and, as a rule, no one is in a hurry to help.

In addition, high empaths simply physically cannot say rudeness in response to rudeness and hurt the person who offended them. Therefore, sometimes people give the impression of being weak and weak-willed, although this is not at all the case.

Many people use this feature when solving personal issues. There are very few true HSPs (highly sensitive people) and they need to be protected.

Rules for controlling the ability to empathize

In psychology there is a concept called “empathic fatigue.” It affects people whose jobs involve compassion and empathy every day: medical personnel, social service workers, rescuers. Faced with blood, pain and death every day, such people experience emotional empathic burnout syndrome.

If a person feels that he is an HSP and is gradually becoming emotionally exhausted, then preventive measures should be taken on “mental hygiene”.

You should learn to control and restrain your emotions. Move from identical suffering to rational help. Try to help the person in a detached manner, without letting his grief pass through you.

Empaths tend to be embarrassed to ask for help themselves. There is no need to do this. If you are in trouble, find yourself in a difficult situation, or just need someone to cry to, then feel free to contact people. You have helped many, let them help you too. It will happen that your imaginary loved ones will not want to sympathize, analyze whether you are wasting your life on people who will not tear themselves away from the sofa for you. Think rationally!

Avoid watching programs that will evoke emotions of sadness and compassion. Your films are comedies!

To gain energy, follow the banal rules: get enough sleep, spend time in nature, eat right.

How is empathy diagnosed?

Diagnosis of the level of empathy is carried out using tests, the number of which is huge today. These tests are available to anyone on the Internet.

The technology for determining the level of empathy is identical for all tests: a series of questions are proposed that must be answered honestly (after all, no one can see you). Based on the results of the answers, the level of empathy will be assessed.

The most common is the express method of I. Yusupov. Its essence lies in the assessment of several judgments that, at first glance, are not related to empathy. For example: “Young people must satisfy any eccentricities of old people,” “A person gets out of a difficult conflict situation on his own,” etc. Based on the answers, a conclusion will be drawn about the level of empathy.

There are other tests, for example, the “Emotional Response Scale” questionnaire by A. Mehrabyan. You can take several tests online, then the results will be more reliable.

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