From researcher Brene Brown on the distinction between empathy and sympathy, among other characteristics of empathy:
It's interesting that Brown quotes another scholar, Theresa Wiseman, who studied professions in which empathy is (allegedly) important. Wiseman came up with four main qualities of empathy based on these studies:
- Perspective taking (ability to take perspective of another person or recognize their perspective as their truth)
- Staying out of judgment (not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do)
- Recognizing emotion in other people
- Communicating that
To me, I can say yes to all of those things. I can take people's perspective, as well as other people (maybe better?). I stay out of judgment (no bandwagon angry mob public shaming). I can recognize emotion in other people and communicate it back to them, it's why I am so good at reading and manipulating people. My main problem is recognizing emotion in myself. But Professor Brown then concludes that empathy is "feeling with other people." Ok, maybe that is what it is, or maybe that is what it feels like for most people (whether or not that's even possible or if people are just projecting their own emotions on the empathy target). But if the four main qualities don't include "feeling with other people," is that what is really valuable about empathy? If I can do the other four things, am I basically covering all of the important empathy bases?