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Jonathan Silvestri
Jonathan Silvestri

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Emotional Empathy: Feel What They Feel

When we last left off, we discussed the merits of cognitive empathy and how being able to take another person's perspective could be valuable in interpersonal relationships. Today's topic -- Emotional Empathy -- is another building block that builds your interpersonal skills as well.

By definition, emotional empathy involves directly feeling the emotions that another person is feeling. For me, it is the type of empathy that I most closely relate the term "empathize" with. Think of this as sharing in the emotional journey that someone you know is going through.

So why is this useful? Why is feeling what someone else feels in a given situation important? How does this make you a better coworker, manager, or friend?

Emotional empathy is the key to becoming a more complete, compassionate individual. This compassion enables you to become a more respected peer and/or mentor. Its the quality that people will remember you fondly for, and is the quality that most organizations should prioritize when bringing in new people.

It is feasible to assume that, when filling your organization with highly emotionally empathetic folks, you will foster a welcoming culture that makes everyone feel included and avoids introducing bad faith actors or others who would seek to do harm to members of your organization in one way or another.

This can also serve as a lesson to those who act inappropriately towards others and how they can curb that behavior. Think of this situation: You are working with someone else on a very hard technical challenge. You think you see a way forward, but your pairing partner does not think your approach accounts for a relevant set of edge cases. You respond by telling them that they are being difficult and that they should just move out of your way if they aren't going to be helpful.

Remember that golden question? "How does this make them feel?" Ask it to yourself here. The answer will probably be along the lines of "Pretty terrible." Now apply some emotional empathy, which will make you share that feeling and hopefully give you some context for how your actions affect others.

I am a huge advocate for embracing emotional empathy and valuing it highly in the list of skills any organization looks for in its members. What do you have to lose from surrounding yourself with compassionate individuals?

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