3 Dimensions of empathy

Understanding the three types of empathy can help you build stronger, healthier relationships.

Cognitive empathy also known as ‘perspective-taking’, enables you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes –  but without necessarily engaging with their emotions. Cognitive empathy makes you a better communicator, because it helps you relay information in a way that best reaches the other person. 

Emotional empathy is when you quite literally feel the other person’s emotions alongside them, as if you had ‘caught’ the emotions. This type of empathy helps you build emotional connections with others. (Be wary of taking on and becoming overwhelmed by those emotions and not being able to respond effectively.)

Compassionate empathy, or empathic concern,  is feeling someone’s pain, and taking action to help.

When someone wants or needs your empathy, they don’t just need your cognitive or emotional empathy, they need you to understand what they are going through and, crucially, either take, or help them to take, action to resolve the problem, which is compassionate empathy.

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