Thoughts on Empathy

March 12, 2015

Being a nurse, I often meet people when they are at their most vulnerable. Secrets that have never been shared, terrible traumas that were hidden, and even guilt and shame that weighed heavily upon regretful shoulders. Almost never will you find a person stop another person on the street and randomly tell them such personal things. But, this is what often happens in healthcare. Somehow and in some way, there is this bridge of trust that is so quickly and inexplicably built.

Last Friday, I went to a conference that focused on infant mental health and how experiences and stressors in life - at even such a young age - can have a profound impact on a child's learning and development. The topic was fascinating and I think my brain was overflowing with so much info. One of the things that stood out was a portion of the talk that looked at sympathy versus empathy. The guest speaker showed us a video that illustrated the difference between the two so perfectly (embedded below).

I think that whether you're a teacher, a mom, an engineer, or a corporate superstar, this is something that we should all know. I truly believe that life is all about relationships and that during the crummy, trying times, we should learn how to be present for each other. Learning to have empathy is just one way to start.

What do you think about empathy versus sympathy?

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