Importance of empathy __Why some people can empathize and others can’t?

Life Skills
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There is various type of troubles of human relationships in workplaces, business, couple, family and friends. Even if you know each other for a long time, it doesn’t mean you can understand well each other. Back to basic, how do we understand others? Why some people can empathize others and others can’t? This time, I would like to see those difference and the importance for leadership. 


Difference between sympathy and empathy

Sympathy involves understanding from your own perspective. Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they are feeling. Difference between sympathy and empathy is judgemental or not. Sympathy often involves a lot of judgement, however empathy has none. Recently, empathy is one of the key factors in emotional intelligence which is required in leadership.

Why people cannot empathize others?

Each person has their own world. Various factors such as upbringing, memories and events in school days, position in work, passion, worries create the own unique world. Even if it’s a lover, couple, parent and child, you cannot understand their everything.

For example, your husband went home. He had frustrating things at work today. After listening his story, have you ever thought, “So what?’’ or “Is that a big issue? ” Or, you may have got to say it straightforward. From the husband side, it’s very hurtful words.

For another example, your wife who is exhausted with child-rearing, work, housework. If you’re a husband, have you ever had the experience of throwing away her long-running complaints? “It’s started again. Let’s get away quickly,” or, “I’m tired of work.” From wife’s point of view, it’s a very hurtful words and attitude.

Why can’t we empathize? It’s because they don’t live in a common world mentally. We all have wish to be understood. However, we basically cannot understand others. Therefore, we should deal with individual worries/concern/issues by ourselves. However, we’re not so strong, sometimes. We’re not perfect.

It is pretty natural for wives to chat with their friends about complaint for husbands outside home, for husband to have some beers with their friends to heal their heart instead of bringing negative feeling to sweet home. This action is to share the common feeling with others. The more you have common points, the more you can understand that person. Then, we recognize ‘’He/She is an empathetic person for me.’’

Who can you empathize with?

Even if your family members live in the same house, you all are different and need some common things. For example, meal. Eating tasty food makes all family members happy. They share happiness by meal. Another example is, family culture. It shares the virtue with family members. In doctor’s family, family culture is certainly to help people. In designer family, the family culture is to make people beautiful and confidence by clothes/products. In government officer family, it’s to work for people and protect a country. In case of my family clan, it’s justice and fairness.

Family activity such as ski and camp may share experience with the members.  And some family rules is important to manage them.

In the workplace, common thing is not only official same goal. Sometimes, people can feel empathy with people who are similar situation with you. For example, colleagues working under poor management, working for same enemy, working on weekend due to too much tasks. When you participate a meeting, someone support your opinion, or you have similar view point with him/her. You guys feel empathy.

Why empathy is important?

Imagine, a mobile phone is here. To what extend is it important for you? Is that same as 80’s elderly people who didn’t need it in their life? For baby, mobile phone is valuable? Your most important thing is someone’s most useless thing. If you don’t understand others, this gap will lead to big issue. Human life and feeling are different from things. Human feelings are same as ancient people. When you hurt someone, they are damaged, hate you, will revenge you one day. Mankind history shows this cycle. Human being is emotional creature. Strong people forget what they did for weak people. Weak people never forget what strong people did for them. Therefore, we should try to understand other’s thought and feeling. Empathy is one of the critical point of Emotional Intelligence, which is required for a business leader. This is to protect yourself and people around you as well.

How can we empathize more?

Find something in common with others. For example, same hobbies, same status (husband, wife, father, mother, belong to local community), same background. Age might be point since they know human history beyond border. Nostalgic movie and music, life style, thought of how to live probably make you encouraged.

Today, you might have been annoyed because your boss was angry with you. Did he point out your action or deny your character? Your boss is not perfect. If you were a boss, did you shout your member? Why did you say emotionally? You may think that you can’t empathize with someone, but if you change your perspective a little, you may realize that we live in the same small world.


  • Difference of sympathy and empathy: Sympathy is judgemental, sometimes. Empathy is not.
  • Empathy is one of critical part of Emotional Intelligence which is required for a leadership.
  • Find something in common with others for empathy.

It’s easy to say, but empathy is to feel in heart more than to think in your head. To empathy someone, a wide range of experiences in both business and life might be required.