Empathy is the ability to understand how someone else is feeling or to understand the situation they are in. It is the ability to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” and to understand the way a situation might make them feel. So empathy has two parts: shared emotion and seeing someone else’s point of view.
So yesterday, we learned that empathy has two parts: shared emotion and seeing someone else’s point of view. What does it mean to have shared emotion? It is feeling an emotion that someone else is feeling even though their situation doesn’t directly affect you. Like when your friend is sad and you feel sad with them. Or when your friend tells you about scoring the winning goal and you get excited with them.
So what does it mean to see something from someone else’s point of view? It means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, even if you disagree with them. You can step back from the way you see a situation and think about how someone else might feel from their side of the story.
Yesterday we talked about what it means to look at something from someone else’s point of view. Now that you know what it means, what does it look like in practice? Consider that you are playing a game that you really enjoy but your friend isn’t because she doesn’t think it is a fair game. If you see that the game bothers your friend and understand that she isn’t having a good time, even though you are, that is called empathy. You understood her point of view. It doesn’t mean you don’t still have your point of view, it just means that you can see past your point of view to what others see also.
So why is empathy important to you now and in the future? Empathy is really important for how we get along with people. Whether you can be a good friend, get hired for a job, be successful with a team of others… all of those things depend on being able to understand how other people might see a situation and how they are feeling. Empathy is at the root of all healthy relationships. It helps you know how your actions affect others, what actions you need to take to be a good friend or teammate, and it helps you understand more about the people and the world around you.