Understanding Empathy: Traits, Factors, and Facts of Empathy

What is Empathy? Empathy is a mental state, in which a person feels the same thoughts, feelings, or circumstances as others.

Many times people hear the word ’empathy’, but don’t know the exact definition. Empathy and sympathy are often equated, even considered the same, even though these two things have their own characteristics. What’s that like? Let’s get to know empathy through the following explanation.

A. Definition of Empathy

To be able to better understand the feelings experienced by oneself and others, Readers can also read the book Series Me and My Family: My Various Feelings.

This sense of empathy can arise as the ability to be self-aware when dealing with the feelings of others, then act to help them. Oneself will understand them, from their point of view. This feeling is very important in building relationships or establishing relationships with other people.

Then according to Chaplin, the notion of empathy is the ability to project one’s own feelings on an event, a natural object or aesthetic work and the realization and understanding of other personal needs and suffering.

B. History of Empathy

The term empathy was originally used by an aesthetic critic to understand another person’s perspective. EB ‘Motor mimicry’ as another term used by Titchener, who is an American psychologist.

He interprets it from physically impersonating someone else’s burden, then sharing that feeling. This is because humans as social beings need each other as discussed in the Empathy Generation book.

C. Definition of Empathy According to Experts

1. M. Umar and Ahmadi Ali

Empathy is defined as a tendency that a person feels to feel something someone else would, if he were in that position.

2. Patton

Establishing a close relationship, so that you can understand other people’s feelings requires time and process. Even though it is not easy, one has to do it for the sake of having compassion and caring for the person it is aimed at. “Posing yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

3. Chaplin

Able to project a sense of self onto an event or object, aesthetic work and realization of needs, to the suffering of others.

4. Al Barry and Partanto

The attitude of activeness of the muscles or feelings experienced by humans when facing objects or humans, then unites with them at a certain time and holds a response when accompanying them.

5. EB Titchener

Feelings that arise as a result of physical imitation, which is ultimately able to create the same feelings.

D. Development of Empathy

1. Emotional Empathy

Babies aged zero to one year will usually cry when they see another baby crying. Hoffman calls it global empathy because one cannot distinguish between oneself and the world.

2. Egocentric Empathy

In toddlerhood or under the age of five, a child begins to be able to distinguish that grief is not his, the distress that is befalling other people, not his own.

Their cognitive development is immature, but instinctively they will try to help even though they don’t know for sure whether the actions taken are appropriate.

3. Cognitive Empathy

Beginning at the age of six, a child begins to see things from other people’s perspectives. This type does not require emotional communication, such as crying. Whether shown or not, a child has begun to understand.

4. Abstract Empathy

When childhood will end at the age of 10-12 years, empathy is not only aimed at people who are known or often met. Groups of people who have never met before can also be the target of empathy.

E. Characteristics of Empathy

1. Ability to Understand Others

The person’s behavior is multifactorial, influenced by many things. When you see someone feeling a certain emotion, you will naturally feel the same way yourself. Being able to read situations and understand what other people think and feel is also discussed in Nunchi’s book which calls it the sixth sense.

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This is useful for daily interactions, so that you can relate to others.

The conversation becomes more connected, the other person becomes happy. However, there were times when a person couldn’t understand other people’s feelings. It’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t understand.

2. Understand Sign Language

Why is sign language so important? A person’s emotions can be seen through their gestures, so their movements can speak.

For example, when someone is happy, they will look more cheerful and enthusiastic, while when they are sad, they will tend to be gloomy and look lethargic when doing activities.

Intonation and other non-verbal ways can be used to find out their emotions.

3. Role Performed

Empathy will manifest a reality and action on the feelings that are felt. However, not everyone can respond to other people’s feelings. When sad, there are those who feel sorry for them and listen to their outpourings, there are also those who ignore them and leave.

When the listeners returned, only apologies came out and they reasoned that they couldn’t stand listening to sad stories. Or, not at all, just don’t care and bring up old events.

4. Understanding Yourself

If you continue to face strong negative feelings, the impact is quite severe emotional exhaustion. Not everyone is also taught to accept emotions. For example, boys shouldn’t be crybaby, crying will make themselves look weak, or being concerned with emotions is a waste of time and useless.

In the end, they become unaware of their own feelings. The feelings that are being felt are difficult to understand. If you can’t understand yourself, empathy that has a positive impact will not appear.

Emotions towards feeling sad or happy are commonplace. When angry or feeling a problem, you can cry yourself or tell others about it. As long as it doesn’t drag on. “Our emotions are our own.”


5. Doesn’t Mean Dissolving In Other People’s Problems

Understanding feelings or feeling the same way as someone, that’s okay. However, it is not permissible to interfere or deal with the problem too deeply, so that empathy still has certain limitations.

F. Empathy Factor According to Siwi (1992)

1. Parenting

In fact, 98% of humans are born with the potential to empathize. The rest are people with psychopathic tendencies.

The parenting style of parents who instill empathy in their children from a young age. For this reason, during the growth and development of children, parents become the main teachers and guides in shaping their character.

Parents are examples that will influence children’s behavior. You do this by not being too self-centered, encouraging children to experience and express their emotions, not restraining children when they want to interact with their friends, as long as it is still in a positive sphere.

2. Personality

Often self-reflect and have a calm demeanor? That means, the individual will certainly have high sensitivity when sharing with others. The person is usually able to exercise good emotional control over himself. Introvert personality is believed to have a high sense of empathy, you know!

3. Age and Degree of Maturity

The older you get, the higher a person’s empathy. The degree of maturity of a person will be higher, so they can socialize well with each other.

4. Socialization

For example, when a child is playing with his friends. In the games that are held, of course there will be cooperation or close relations. They can be more open to others and feel tolerance.

G. Benefits of Empathy

1. Liked by People Around

With empathy, one can produce positive emotions or aura. Life will be happier with people around who feel love and compassion.

2. Keep Away From Selfish Attitudes

Compassion will keep the heart away from jealousy, selfishness, and pride. This ugliness is certainly not good for oneself, it can cause stress, high ambition, and even lies. Hostilities with other people can make bad days. Life becomes unhealthy.

3. Acquiring Kindness

With a caring attitude and action in helping others, someone will become a better person. God and fellow human beings will reward him with something good too. Life will be made easier and not filled with problems.

H. Examples of Empathy

When there is sad news from a friend whose relative has passed away, condolences and prayers can be sent. Learn more about this feeling through the book The Art of Reading People’s Hearts, Minds, and Feelings.

Visit a friend who is sick, comfort him, and provide what is needed. Collected voluntary donations from classmates for a sick friend. Participate in providing assistance to victims of natural disasters. Everything is a positive action and makes the heart feel happy.

I. Characteristics of Highly Empathized People

1. Has High Sensitivity

With this condition, someone will usually naturally open up to help others, at least willing to listen. When a friend is feeling sad or happy, you will always be there and embrace him. However, because of this one feeling, a person becomes easier to be offended or hurt.

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2. Have High Intuition

Someone with high empathy will usually develop life according to his intuition. Another way is to feel or want to feel the emotions of others.

3. Tend to be alone

This person usually does not like to join a group that makes him uncomfortable. This person needs more me time , especially if he is in a busy life that often makes him tired.

Usually, the me time you get will be used to rest and recover energy. They will love themselves, so that when listening to other people, the feelings conveyed feel as if they were felt by themselves.

4. Taking a Role ( Role Taking )

Concrete behavior, as well as empathy will come by itself. Individuals will feel the reactions or emotional feelings felt by others.

However, empathy will open the eyes of an individual to the suffering felt by the other person.

After feeling this, you will usually be spontaneous to take a role or action, either in a positive and helpful way or just let it be.

5. Emotional Control 

Realizing that he is feeling empathy and not being too absorbed in other people’s feelings.

J. How to Build Empathy

1. Learn More Sensitive

Be sensitive to things that are happening around. This factor is very important to build a good sense of empathy. Don’t expect big things if you can’t do small things.

Starting with the closest environment, namely the family. How to empathize with your father, mother or next of kin. After success, practice in the community, such as neighbors, school friends, and the community.

Tell them that you can help them if they need help.

2. Don’t be high

With a sense of pride, arrogant attitude will be reflected in a person. Learn to be sociable in any environment, act as if there is no distance between yourself and others because empathy also arises from mutual respect.

3. Imagine If Yourself Became Someone Else

Empathy can emerge if instilled in yourself. By imagining that the person feeling something is yourself, gratitude will be felt to be the most important thing in life. Empathy is not just feeling or helping others, but feeling sincere and being a good form of worship.

4. Accepting Differences

It is undeniable that the differences that exist in each individual sometimes have two sides. One side of myself can accept differences, the other side of myself feels that there is no need for differences.

Therefore, instill in yourself that differences exist as a gift that allows humans to continue to learn and improve themselves.

5. Be Friends With Anyone

Empathy can arise if you interact a lot with other people. That way, their feelings can be easily identified. By making friends with anyone, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to follow their habits, preferences, or interests.

6. Don’t Judge

Can’t understand other people’s feelings, but don’t judge either. On the other hand, people who want to be heard should not immediately make mental judgments and think that other people don’t care. Be considerate , not everyone shows the response, as expected.

Be more specific and elaborative, say in detail or at least be clear about the feelings you are feeling. Sometimes, people can feel sad because they are not understood or understood. However, everyone can develop or change with effort.

K. Tips for Becoming a Good Listener ( Active Listening )

That way, the other person who is telling the story will feel more comfortable when pouring out his heart. For this reason, the role of a mentor or psychologist is needed by some people. They have been trained to listen to others. Actually, this active skill can be learned by everyone. Its application can be done when making relationships in the office or discussing with study groups.

When talking, someone really needs active listening , especially someone who feels that it is difficult for him to get close to other people. In the simplest way, namely simply listening, other people have found it helpful. Still sure you have great empathy?

If you put this aside, in social life everyone as a human being must have concern for the environment and others around him. Why? This concern greatly impacts survival. Every human being will get help if it helps. Don’t be too proud to talk if the situation is urgent, for sure the people closest to you or those within your own circle will be moved to take part.

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This book presents very important information to be used as a therapy tutorial in contemporary life. If Readers already knows Erich Fromm’s book The Art of Loving, this book is his counterpart—that is, starting with listening. And, Erich Fromm presents this listening method as an art.

Give empathy to those who are currently grieving. Follow and feel the sadness as if it were your sadness too. Give encouragement so that they will always survive and fight in difficult times. This book “We Are the Same as Humans” will give hope so that we can continue to face tomorrow.

When it rains we ask for the sun. When it’s hot we ask for rain. As if there is never an end to us asking without trying to be grateful for what we get now. In fact, the circumstances faced this time may be better than the circumstances faced by others out there. This book teaches us to be more empathetic and give thanks more, how many blessings the universe has given us.