Hello and welcome to my blog! Welcome to Throwback Thursday where I bring back a post from a year ago and reflect upon it. This is what I wrote a year ago today:

What is empathy?

It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

How do you know if you are empathetic?

Do you feel that you are sometimes empathic and other times you feel detached like you’re not able to imagine how a person may feel and you want to help them feel better but you don’t know how?

I struggle with this sometimes.

I think of myself as an empathetic person, because I’m affected by the mood in the room. If you cry, I cry. If you smile, I smile.

Sometimes, though, when someone is distressed, especially if they are secretive and try to mask their emotions and I want to show my sympathy (feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune) without them getting offended. I want to offer my help, but I don’t know what to say to make them feel better because I think they’re supposed to feel the way they do and I want to show I care because what is happening is sad but I end up standing there with a pained expression on my face that makes them say “what’s wrong with you?”

Honestly, I think I try too hard to show empathy. These things are supposed to come out naturally.

So I did a quiz, as one does, to see how empathic I am and I made an interesting discovery.

There are 2 types of empathy

Effective empathy

I scored high in this one. It means I have a strong ability to sense other people’s emotions. This makes me more concerned about their welfare but I may become distressed if I encounter personal suffering (which is why I seem dramatic at times).

Cognitive empathy

This is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I scored moderately in this area. It’s being able to imagine what other people are feeling or thinking. Having cognitive empathy helps you communicate effectively in your personal and professional relationships (maybe social anxiety is why I’m a bit lacking here?)

So if you find yourself lacking in either type of empathy, what’s the solution?

How to be more empathetic:

1. Practice active listening: listening carefully without judgement or interruption to the other person’s words, facial expressions and body language.

2. Share in other people’s joy: expressing enthusiasm when someone shares good news

3. Look for commonalities with others: look for shared experiences in those you don’t share interests with. This will help you overcome feelings of fear and distrust (good tip actually because I tend to zone out people who have different interests than mine).

4. Read fiction: I do that already. I read novels all the time. I guess I should search for novels that increase empathy as well. I also cry easily in movies, so that counts, right?

5. Pay attention to faces: facial expressions communicate a lot about other people’s emotional state. Read and practice to increase your emotional intelligence. I recommend the book Emotional Equations which I read a few years ago but somehow lost.

These are the tips they gave me after doing the quiz. I took the titles and elaborated to my own knowledge.

Do you consider yourself an empathic person?

Are you better at effective or cognitive empathy?

I’d like to believe my empathy has improved during the past year. I try to imagine how stressed out my husband must be to cut him some slack when he overreacts. I also have become a better listener. I look beyond the anger and try to find out the hidden feeling so I can empathize and help. I still feel detached when it comes to strangers. To empathize with someone, I must know them personally or know someone who knows them and cares about them.