The ability to understand how someone feels because you can imagine what it is like to be them.
Empathy refers to the ability of a person to understand and share the feelings or emotional states of another person. This can be achieved through adopting another person’s vantage point or frame of reference on a specific situation, to position oneself in the situation of another. There is a wide spectrum of different definitions of empathy, including emotional empathy and cognitive empathy, and many varying empathetic techniques.
13th June is Empathy Day, a campaign started by EmpathyLab in the United Kingdom to use stories as vehicles for promoting empathetic responses and encouraging more caring and peaceful behaviour. EmpathyLab takes its idea from the capacity of vicarious experiences which are instilled during the process of reading stories and embedding oneself in another’s mindset or situation in order to proliferate the energy it takes to understand another person’s situation, thereby increasing a sense of kinship or altruism. One famous literary evocation of empathy is from Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, whereby Atticus Finch states:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
the ability to understand how someone feels because you can imagine what it is like to be them