What is Empathy?

There are many definitions of empathy used in the social sciences. EmpathyWorks® believes that empathy is a two-way communication process and we use the following definition.

  • Empathy is a natural process consisting of both feeling and cognitive elements. We are born with a neurobiology that allows us to feel the other’s feelings as if they are our own. As we mature, this natural ability is augmented by the cognitive aspects of empathy, which allow us to take the other’s perspective with awareness of “self and other.”
  • Empathy is a communication process that begins with the desire to tune in to and accurately assess another person’s thoughts, feelings, and inner experience. Our mind naturally forms a guess as to what the other person is feeling. When we communicate this to the other person in a way that they feel safe, seen, and understood and then they acknowledge feeling understood, empathy happens. This creates an empathic flow we call the We space® and the two-way empathic communication process is complete.