• Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Kids Mental Health
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Relationships in 2023
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2023 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

What Is Empathy?

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

how does empathy help with problem solving

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

how does empathy help with problem solving

Verywell / Bailey Mariner

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.

Empathy means that when you see another person suffering, such as after they've lost a loved one , you are able to instantly envision yourself going through that same experience and feel what they are going through.

While people can be well-attuned to their own feelings and emotions, getting into someone else's head can be a bit more difficult. The ability to feel empathy allows people to "walk a mile in another's shoes," so to speak. It permits people to understand the emotions that others are feeling.

Press Play for Advice on Empathy

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast , featuring empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe, shares how you can show empathy to someone who is going through a hard time. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

Signs of Empathy

For many, seeing another person in pain and responding with indifference or even outright hostility seems utterly incomprehensible. But the fact that some people do respond in such a way clearly demonstrates that empathy is not necessarily a universal response to the suffering of others.

If you are wondering whether you are an empathetic person, here are some signs that show that you have this tendency:

  • You are good at really listening to what others have to say.
  • People often tell you about their problems.
  • You are good at picking up on how other people are feeling.
  • You often think about how other people feel.
  • Other people come to you for advice.
  • You often feel overwhelmed by tragic events.
  • You try to help others who are suffering.
  • You are good at telling when people aren't being honest .
  • You sometimes feel drained or overwhelmed in social situations.
  • You care deeply about other people.
  • You find it difficult to set boundaries in your relationships.

Types of Empathy

There are several types of empathy that a person may experience. The three types of empathy are:

  • Affective empathy involves the ability to understand another person's emotions and respond appropriately. Such emotional understanding may lead to someone feeling concerned for another person's well-being, or it may lead to feelings of personal distress.
  • Somatic empathy involves having a physical reaction in response to what someone else is experiencing. People sometimes physically experience what another person is feeling. When you see someone else feeling embarrassed, for example, you might start to blush or have an upset stomach.
  • Cognitive empathy involves being able to understand another person's mental state and what they might be thinking in response to the situation. This is related to what psychologists refer to as the theory of mind or thinking about what other people are thinking.

Empathy vs. Sympathy vs. Compassion

While sympathy and compassion are related to empathy, there are important differences. Compassion and sympathy are often thought to be more of a passive connection, while empathy generally involves a much more active attempt to understand another person.

Uses for Empathy

Being able to experience empathy has many beneficial uses.

  • Empathy allows you to build social connections with others . By understanding what people are thinking and feeling, you are able to respond appropriately in social situations. Research has shown that having social connections is important for both physical and psychological well-being.
  • Empathizing with others helps you learn to regulate your own emotions . Emotional regulation is important in that it allows you to manage what you are feeling, even in times of great stress, without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Empathy promotes helping behaviors . Not only are you more likely to engage in helpful behaviors when you feel empathy for other people, but other people are also more likely to help you when they experience empathy.

Potential Pitfalls of Empathy

Having a great deal of empathy makes you concerned for the well-being and happiness of others. It also means, however, that you can sometimes get overwhelmed, burned out , or even overstimulated from always thinking about other people's emotions. This can lead to empathy fatigue.

Empathy fatigue refers to the exhaustion you might feel both emotionally and physically after repeatedly being exposed to stressful or traumatic events . You might also feel numb or powerless, isolate yourself, and have a lack of energy.

Empathy fatigue is a concern in certain situations, such as when acting as a caregiver . Studies also show that if healthcare workers can't balance their feelings of empathy (affective empathy, in particular), it can result in compassion fatigue as well.

Other research has linked higher levels of empathy with a tendency toward emotional negativity , potentially increasing your risk of empathic distress. It can even affect your judgment, causing you to go against your morals based on the empathy you feel for someone else.

Impact of Empathy

Your ability to experience empathy can impact your relationships. Studies involving siblings have found that when empathy is high, siblings have less conflict and more warmth toward each other. In romantic relationships, having empathy increases your ability to extend forgiveness .

Not everyone experiences empathy in every situation. Some people may be more naturally empathetic in general, but people also tend to feel more empathetic toward some people and less so toward others. Some of the factors that play a role in this tendency include:

  • How you perceive the other person
  • How you attribute the other individual's behaviors
  • What you blame for the other person's predicament
  • Your past experiences and expectations

Research has found that there are gender differences in the experience and expression of empathy, although these findings are somewhat mixed. Women score higher on empathy tests, and studies suggest that women tend to feel more cognitive empathy than men.  

At the most basic level, there appear to be two main factors that contribute to the ability to experience empathy: genetics and socialization. Essentially, it boils down to the age-old relative contributions of nature and nurture .

Parents pass down genes that contribute to overall personality, including the propensity toward sympathy, empathy, and compassion. On the other hand, people are also socialized by their parents, peers, communities, and society. How people treat others, as well as how they feel about others, is often a reflection of the beliefs and values that were instilled at a very young age. 

Barriers to Empathy

Some people lack empathy and, therefore, aren't able to understand what another person may be experiencing or feeling. This can result in behaviors that seem uncaring or sometimes even hurtful. For instance, people with low affective empathy have higher rates of cyberbullying .

A lack of empathy is also one of the defining characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder . Though, it is unclear whether this is due to a person with this disorder having no empathy at all or having more of a dysfunctional response to others.

A few reasons why people sometimes lack empathy include cognitive biases, dehumanization, and victim-blaming.

Cognitive Biases

Sometimes the way people perceive the world around them is influenced by cognitive biases . For example, people often attribute other people's failures to internal characteristics, while blaming their own shortcomings on external factors.

These biases can make it difficult to see all the factors that contribute to a situation. They also make it less likely that people will be able to see a situation from the perspective of another.


Many also fall victim to the trap of thinking that people who are different from them don't feel and behave the same as they do. This is particularly common in cases when other people are physically distant.

For example, when they watch reports of a disaster or conflict in a foreign land, people might be less likely to feel empathy if they think that those who are suffering are fundamentally different from themselves.

Victim Blaming

Sometimes, when another person has suffered a terrible experience, people make the mistake of blaming the victim for their circumstances. This is the reason that victims of crimes are often asked what they might have done differently to prevent the crime.

This tendency stems from the need to believe that the world is a fair and just place. It is the desire to believe that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get—and it can fool you into thinking that such terrible things could never happen to you.

Causes of Empathy

Human beings are certainly capable of selfish, even cruel, behavior. A quick scan of the news quickly reveals numerous unkind, selfish, and heinous actions. The question, then, is why don't we all engage in such self-serving behavior all the time? What is it that causes us to feel another's pain and respond with kindness ?

The term empathy was first introduced in 1909 by psychologist Edward B. Titchener as a translation of the German term einfühlung (meaning "feeling into"). Several different theories have been proposed to explain empathy.

Neuroscientific Explanations

Studies have shown that specific areas of the brain play a role in how empathy is experienced. More recent approaches focus on the cognitive and neurological processes that lie behind empathy. Researchers have found that different regions of the brain play an important role in empathy, including the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula.

Research suggests that there are important neurobiological components to the experience of empathy.   The activation of mirror neurons in the brain plays a part in the ability to mirror and mimic the emotional responses that people would feel if they were in similar situations.

Functional MRI research also indicates that an area of the brain known as the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) plays a critical role in the experience of empathy. Studies have found that people who have damage to this area of the brain often have difficulty recognizing emotions conveyed through facial expressions .  

Emotional Explanations

Some of the earliest explorations into the topic of empathy centered on how feeling what others feel allows people to have a variety of emotional experiences. The philosopher Adam Smith suggested that it allows us to experience things that we might never otherwise be able to fully feel.

This can involve feeling empathy for both real people and imaginary characters. Experiencing empathy for fictional characters, for example, allows people to have a range of emotional experiences that might otherwise be impossible.

Prosocial Explanations

Sociologist Herbert Spencer proposed that empathy served an adaptive function and aided in the survival of the species. Empathy leads to helping behavior, which benefits social relationships. Humans are naturally social creatures. Things that aid in our relationships with other people benefit us as well.

When people experience empathy, they are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors that benefit other people. Things such as altruism and heroism are also connected to feeling empathy for others.

Tips for Practicing Empathy

Fortunately, empathy is a skill that you can learn and strengthen. If you would like to build your empathy skills, there are a few things that you can do:

  • Work on listening to people without interrupting
  • Pay attention to body language and other types of nonverbal communication
  • Try to understand people, even when you don't agree with them
  • Ask people questions to learn more about them and their lives
  • Imagine yourself in another person's shoes
  • Strengthen your connection with others to learn more about how they feel
  • Seek to identify biases you may have and how they affect your empathy for others
  • Look for ways in which you are similar to others versus focusing on differences
  • Be willing to be vulnerable, opening up about how you feel
  • Engage in new experiences, giving you better insight into how others in that situation may feel
  • Get involved in organizations that push for social change

A Word From Verywell

While empathy might be lacking in some, most people are able to empathize with others in a variety of situations. This ability to see things from another person's perspective and empathize with another's emotions plays an important role in our social lives. Empathy allows us to understand others and, quite often, compels us to take action to relieve another person's suffering.

Reblin M, Uchino BN. Social and emotional support and its implication for health .  Curr Opin Psychiatry . 2008;21(2):201‐205. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e3282f3ad89

Cleveland Clinic. Empathy fatigue: How stress and trauma can take a toll on you .

Duarte J, Pinto-Bouveia J, Cruz B. Relationships between nurses' empathy, self-compassion and dimensions of professional quality of life: A cross-sectional study . Int J Nursing Stud . 2016;60:1-11. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.02.015

Chikovani G, Babuadze L, Iashvili N, Gvalia T, Surguladze S. Empathy costs: Negative emotional bias in high empathisers . Psychiatry Res . 2015;229(1-2):340-346. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.07.001

Lam CB, Solmeyer AR, McHale SM. Sibling relationships and empathy across the transition to adolescence . J Youth Adolescen . 2012;41:1657-1670. doi:10.1007/s10964-012-9781-8

Kimmes JG, Durtschi JA. Forgiveness in romantic relationships: The roles of attachment, empathy, and attributions . J Marital Family Ther . 2016;42(4):645-658. doi:10.1111/jmft.12171

Kret ME, De Gelder B. A review on sex difference in processing emotional signals . Neuropsychologia . 2012; 50(7):1211-1221. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.12.022

Schultze-Krumbholz A, Scheithauer H. Is cyberbullying related to lack of empathy and social-emotional problems? Int J Develop Sci . 2013;7(3-4):161-166. doi:10.3233/DEV-130124

Baskin-Sommers A, Krusemark E, Ronningstam E. Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: From clinical and empirical perspectives . Personal Dis Theory Res Treat . 2014;5(3):323-333. doi:10.1037/per0000061

Decety, J. Dissecting the neural mechanisms mediating empathy . Emotion Review . 2011; 3(1): 92-108. doi:10.1177/1754073910374662

Shamay-Tsoory SG, Aharon-Peretz J, Perry D. Two systems for empathy: A double dissociation between emotional and cognitive empathy in inferior frontal gyrus versus ventromedial prefrontal lesions . Brain . 2009;132(PT3): 617-627. doi:10.1093/brain/awn279

Hillis AE. Inability to empathize: Brain lesions that disrupt sharing and understanding another's emotions . Brain . 2014;137(4):981-997. doi:10.1093/brain/awt317

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

danielle piccinni-black


Design thinking: problem-solving rooted in empathy.

Danielle Piccinini Black, academic lead for Johns Hopkins Executive Education’s Design Thinking for Innovation, discusses the benefits of utilizing design thinking as an empathy-centered approach to problem-solving.

At Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, we believe in a better business world through advanced education.

While volunteering with the Peace Corps in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Executive Education adjunct faculty member Danielle Piccinini Black (MBA/MPH ’16) experienced the complex challenges of creating effective and desirable solutions for global health initiatives.

Her time in South Africa inspired her to pursue an MPH/MBA dual degree from Johns Hopkins, confident that comprehensive public health and business skillsets would help create a niche for herself in the public health sector.

Today, Piccinini Black is the academic lead for Design Thinking for Innovation within Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Executive Education program. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for design thinking courses at Carey, as well as the design innovation lead at Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs.

Her initial exposure to design thinking came during her time as an MBA student at Carey Business School. Now, an empathy-centered approach to problem-solving through design thinking is the basis of her career in both business and public health.

Post-graduation, Piccinini Black was hired at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. Using her background in public health, she was brought onto a project to reinvigorate a commercial market for bed nets for malaria prevention in Ghana.

“This project was a great opportunity to apply the skills I gained in the design thinking course to a ‘real world’ project. I pitched the idea of using design thinking to design new bed nets for commercial sale and it stuck. That project was really the catalyst for my career,” she said.

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving process that’s rooted in empathy. By leveraging creativity, individuals can ultimately design and achieve novel solutions to complex problems and compete in today’s dynamic market.

“It’s a process to help create solutions that will actually meet the needs, desires, and constraints of its end users,” she said.

Piccinini Black leverages this human-centered mindset in the way she approaches and designs her design thinking research, workshops, and classes.

“I approach all my courses and design thinking work in an empathetic way. The design of my research processes and teaching approaches are rooted in a deep understanding of the participants, users, and key stakeholders,” she said. “I never conduct two processes or teach two courses the exact same way. It’s important to tailor each in order to respond to the realities of those involved.”

Breaking old habits

Piccinini Black says the pandemic created a space where organizations were forced to break out of old habits and become more creative in their approaches to problem-solving.

Looking for creative and effective approaches to problem-solving, working professionals from various industries are enrolling in Carey Business School’s Executive Education design thinking courses to help build their skillsets with hopes of bringing new, innovative solutions to their organizations. This approach to problem-solving can be leveraged for a variety of problems in different industries.

“Individuals want to revolutionize their problem-solving skills. Working professionals of all career levels participate in design thinking courses to better understand how to tackle business challenges and develop a more expansive human-centered mindset,” she said. “It is intended for individuals of different disciplines and backgrounds to learn how to solve complex problems in a more effective and strategic way.”

Piccinini Black explained that design thinking gives organizations a mechanism for engaging end users and key stakeholders at the beginning of and throughout the problem-solving process. And by doing so, it reduces risk ­­and failure of not meeting the needs of stakeholders.

“Individuals leverage empathy, research, ideation, and iteration to devise novel, human-centered solutions. We collaborate with companies and organizations to bring ‘real world’ challenges to our courses, so participants learn design thinking through experiential learning,” she said.

“Working professionals of all career levels participate in design thinking courses to better understand how to tackle business challenges and develop a more expansive human-centered mindset.” Danielle Piccinini Black

A promising future for design thinking

Piccinini Black has seen greater emphasis on design thinking approaches to problem-solving since the pandemic, giving her hope for the future of innovation and empathy-focused problem-solving and solutions.

“We have a global shared experience from the pandemic, which I believe has made people more empathetic. Design thinking is empathy-centric, and the process seems to resonate with people more now than ever. Because our world is ever-changing, as a society we recognize that we must challenge routines and solve problems while fostering an empathetic mindset,” she said.

While it may be challenging to apply design thinking effectively without study and practice, Piccinini Black says adopting a human-centered mindset is something individuals can do right away.

“Simply approach your work and problem-solving with empathy for a comprehensive understanding of those you are working with and designing for. The easiest way to do that is to simply engage in conversation from the beginning. Learn directly from them,” she said.

Those who are interested in building their knowledge and skills in design thinking, Piccinini Black says to explore the Johns Hopkins Executive Education certificate in Design Thinking for Innovation.

“Knowing design thinking is one thing. But knowing how to do design thinking effectively and having the confidence to implement it in your work and lives outside of the classroom is another. Earning a certificate will get you there.”

Executive Education

Discover Related Content

Erik Helzer

career outcomes

jennifer nesaw portrait

  • Introduction to Design Thinking
  • Executive Certificate in Design Thinking for Innovation
  • Advanced Design Thinking

Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Effective communication, nonverbal communication and body language, conflict resolution skills, anger management, managing conflict with humor.

  • Gaslighting: Turning Off the Gas on Your Gaslighter

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

  • Online Therapy: Is it Right for You?
  • Mental Health
  • Health & Wellness
  • Children & Family
  • Relationships

Are you or someone you know in crisis?

  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Eating Disorders
  • Grief & Loss
  • Personality Disorders
  • PTSD & Trauma
  • Schizophrenia
  • Therapy & Medication
  • Exercise & Fitness
  • Healthy Eating
  • Well-being & Happiness
  • Weight Loss
  • Work & Career
  • Illness & Disability
  • Heart Health
  • Childhood Issues
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Family Caregiving
  • Teen Issues
  • Communication
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Love & Friendship
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Healthy Aging
  • Aging Issues
  • Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia
  • Senior Housing
  • End of Life
  • Healthy Living
  • Aging in Place
  • Meet Our Team
  • Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  • Harvard Health Partnership
  • Audio Meditations

What is empathy?

The different components of empathy, why is empathy so important, signs you or a loved one lack empathy, causes of lack of empathy, building empathy tip 1: practice listening skills, tip 2: learn to read body language, tip 3: embrace your vulnerability, tip 4: improve emotional intelligence, tip 5: explore new perspectives, empathy: how to feel and respond to the emotions of others.

Empathy helps you see things from another person’s perspective, sympathize with their emotions, and build stronger relationships—at work, school, and in your personal life. Here’s how to become more empathetic.

how does empathy help with problem solving

Empathy is the ability to see things from another's perspective and feel their emotions. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes might lead you to act with compassion and do what you can to improve their situation. In doing so, you can reduce the other person’s distress as well as your own.

Imagine you come home to find out your spouse or partner is ill. Even if you were having a good day, you would suddenly feel their distress and tend to their needs. If a friend is angry about the way a boss treated them, you’d likely share their sense of frustration. Maybe you can’t solve their problem, but you can understand that they need to vent their emotions.

Empathy isn't just about hardships. When your child is excited about something, you feel their joy. When your friend is laughing at a joke, you experience their amusement. Empathy allows you to deepen your relationships as you connect with friends’ and loved ones’ thoughts and feelings, and they connect with yours.

Empathy can extend to people you don’t know as well. If you saw someone sitting alone at a party, for example, you might empathize with their loneliness and chat with them. If you saw images of other people suffering on the other side of the world, you might be moved to donate resources to help alleviate their suffering. On the other hand, when you see a televised crowd roaring with joy, you might feel your spirits rise. Their delight becomes your delight.

Empathy vs sympathy

While the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Unlike empathy, sympathy doesn’t involve sharing what someone else feels. When you’re sympathetic, you care about the person’s problem or misfortune and feel sorry for their suffering, but you don’t fully feel their pain.

When a friend experiences a bereavement, for example, if you’re sympathetic you understand why they feel sad and are grieving, and feel sorry for their loss. If you’re empathetic, though, you can also feel the grief they’re going through. Sympathy is more of a feeling of pity for the person, while empathy is more a feeling of compassion for them.

Researchers tend to recognize at least two components of empathy: affective and cognitive.

Affective (or emotional) empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling. If your spouse is stressed and sad, you might mirror those emotions. If a friend is jovial and upbeat, you might find yourself grinning as their happiness seems contagious.

Cognitive empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person’s mental state. It gives you insight into the other person’s perspective and emotions. If you recognize that your spouse is angry, you can predict that your joke isn’t going to land well. If you can tell that your friend is feeling helpless, you won’t be surprised by their sudden outburst.

These two components of empathy require different neural networks in your brain. So, it's possible to have high cognitive empathy but low emotional empathy and vice versa.

Empathy differences between sexes

Research shows that women are more likely to report feeling sad when they hear about the suffering of others. This matches the results of a recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, which showed that female brains appear more receptive to feeling other people's pain. However, the study showed no differences between the sexes in cognitive empathy.

Empathy has an important role to play in your life. First, it can strengthen your bonds with the people you interact with. As you try to understand others, you also make them feel heard and understood. They’re then more likely to take the time to empathize with you as well. This deepens your relationship and promotes that feeling of connection that all of us desire.

Research shows that having a strong social support network tends to increase a person's happiness. Because empathy leads to better relationships, it can be a key component to building a more satisfying life.

Empathy can also:

Motivate prosocial behavior . Empathy can motivate you to take actions that improve the lives of others. These actions might include anything from donating to a charity to encouraging a friend to seek help for alcohol abuse to simply comforting someone with a hug.

Guide decision-making . In social situations, empathy can help you decide on the wisest course of action. If your spouse seems stressed out from work, you can infer that it’s not the best time to ask them to take on more responsibilities.

Reduce burnout . The results of one study suggest that empathy might be useful in reducing burnout . This is because empathy allows for more effective communication and collaboration, even in difficult work environments.

Help diffuse conflict . If you're in a bitter argument with your coworker, for example, empathizing with them can prevent you from being overly critical or needlessly cruel. Once you have a better understanding of someone else’s perspective, it’s easier to move on to proposing a compromise .

Speak to a Licensed Therapist

Empathy isn't something that you either have or don't have. Some people have a high degree of empathy, while others have lower empathy.

If your empathic abilities are on the lower end of the spectrum, you might feel indifferent to other people’s pain. For example, if a friend’s house is burglarized, you might say or think, “Well, that wouldn’t have happened if you were more careful.” Or maybe you look down on family members who are dealing with financial hardship and chalk it up to their failure to work hard. You might even hold the misguided belief that bad things like that would never happen to you.

Low empathy can also lead you to believe that the people around you are too sensitive. You might constantly be surprised that your friends are offended by your jokes. Maybe you don’t understand how your words and actions wound your loved ones. This can lead to all sorts of arguments and misunderstandings.

If you have low empathy, you might have a lack of patience when dealing with people who are in distress. Perhaps your go-to piece of advice for other people is, “Just get over it.” Despite this, you tend to hold grudges and don’t forgive people for mistakes. You never seem to have the time or bandwidth to listen to other people’s perspectives or reflect on their emotional states.

Recognizing a lack of empathy in others

If a loved one is lacking in empathy, you’re likely to have some turbulent interactions. They might be impatient and overly critical, leading you to feel as if you’re walking on eggshells.

[Read: Dealing with Difficult Family Relationships]

You might notice that they’re constantly dismissing your problems or tuning out when you talk about your feelings. You might feel unheard or start to question if you really are being too sensitive. Realize that their lack of empathy is an issue only they can correct.

In some circumstances, it’s natural to feel low empathy. You might have a hard time empathizing with someone who bullied you or mistreated your loved ones. This could just be a situational lack of empathy and not reflective of how well you empathize with people in general.

Certain experiences might decrease your empathy. For example, some research indicates that empathy can decline as medical students go through training. This might be due to burnout , as med students struggle with stressful workloads and increased responsibilities. Med students might also use emotional detachment to protect themselves from psychological distress while on the job or to maintain professionalism when dealing with patients.

However, it’s by no means set in stone that experiences will have this effect. Other studies show that empathy levels in medical students either increase or remain unchanged.

Several mental health conditions, developmental disorders, and personality disorders might involve low empathy:

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) . BPD involves intense insecurity, extreme emotional swings, and an unstable self-image. People with BPD may have a normal level of cognitive empathy, but difficulty with emotional empathy.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) . Narcisists often exhibit a pattern of extreme self-centeredness and arrogance, as well as a high need for admiration. Some research shows that people with NPD may have low empathy, perhaps specifically emotional empathy. It’s also possible that they have a degree of empathy but little motivation to act on those feelings.

[Read: Personality Disorders]

Machiavellianism . This is a personality trait that involves a tendency to be manipulative and disregard morality. People with this trait may have a low drive to act on empathy.

Psychopathy . Psychopathy is a disorder characterized by callousness and antisocial behavior . Lack of emotional empathy, but not necessarily cognitive empathy, is a hallmark of this disorder.

Autism and empathy

There's a common myth that autistic individuals lack empathy. Some, but not all, autistic people may struggle with cognitive empathy. For example, an autistic person might have trouble immediately pinpointing why another person is upset. They might even have a hard time expressing a response that matches societal norms. This shouldn't be confused with a lack of caring.

Read: Adult Autism and Relationships .

Empathy isn't a fixed trait. Think of it as a muscle that can be developed with exercise. Developing your listening skills, paying attention to body language , and increasing emotional intelligence can heighten your ability to empathize with others. Embracing your own vulnerability and exploring new perspectives can also help.

You can’t put yourself in another person’s shoes if you’re unwilling to hear what they have to say. That’s why listening skills are a vital part of building empathy. You’ll need to go beyond just pretending to listen. Aim to listen so intently that you gain an understanding of the person’s situation, views, and emotions.

Identify and remove barriers to listening . If you’re stressed out, you’re going to have a harder time focusing on the other person. Consider addressing the stressor —whether it’s a looming deadline or a toothache—before continuing the conversation. Multitasking is another common barrier to active listening. Put away your phone and stop whatever else you’re doing so you can give the other person your undivided attention. This is especially important during disagreements or when broaching sensitive or complex subjects.

Don’t interrupt . When you cut people off, you not only interrupt their train of thought but you also risk misunderstanding the point they were trying to make. In addition, if you’re formulating your next sentence while the other person is still talking, you’re not completely listening.

Withhold judgment . If you know you disagree with someone, you might find yourself mentally discrediting their words as they speak. But it’s best to listen with an open mind. Don’t immediately criticize or assign blame while they’re talking. Make a real effort to understand where they’re coming from.

Let the other person know you’re listening . Non-verbal cues, such as maintaining eye contact, a head nod, and verbal cues, such as a quick “uh-huh,” let the other person know they have your attention. You’re essentially inviting them to continue. If you appear to be daydreaming or thinking about something else, the speaker might take that as a sign that you don’t care.

[Read: Effective Communication]

Provide feedback . If you think you might’ve misheard or misunderstood something, pose a few follow-up questions. The person can then clarify their point if necessary.

Listening isn’t just about receiving verbal messages. People also convey information about their emotional state through nonverbal body cues. The ability to read body language is useful in all sorts of social situations.

Perhaps you have a friend who frequently says, “I’m doing OK,” but you can tell by their sullen expression that something is wrong. Or maybe you can gauge a date’s interest in you based on their level of eye contact.

People often convey messages through:

  • Facial expression . Frowns, grins, hesitant smiles, and other facial expressions can convey mood.
  • Eye contact . A person’s eyes might be aimed at whatever they’re focused on. Wide eyes can convey excitement. Drooping lids might imply that the person is tired or calm.
  • Voice . A person’s vocal tone can tell you if they’re joking or being serious. The speed at which they talk can convey confidence or nervousness.
  • Posture . Stiff, tense shoulders might indicate apprehension. Relaxed shoulders and a slouching posture might be a sign that the person is at ease or bored.
  • Gestures . Lack of hand gestures may indicate shyness or discomfort. Someone who’s feeling relaxed and friendly might use their hands more. The speed and intensity of the gestures can also convey aggression or excitement.

[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]

Reading body language can be tricky. Not everyone uses the exact same nonverbal cues. And certain cues can mean multiple things. For example, is a person tapping their finger on the table because they’re feeling impatient or because they’re enjoying the song playing in the background? Here’s what to consider when trying to understand someone’s body language:

Look for consistency . Nonverbal cues should match what the other person is saying. If your spouse says they’re anxious, their fidgeting or furrowed brow might reinforce this message. In situations where body language doesn’t match what’s being said, you might need to make more of an effort to understand how the other person is feeling.

Don’t read too much into individual cues . If you focus too much on any one cue, you’re likely to misunderstand the other person. For example, just because a person is looking away from you doesn’t mean they’re disinterested. They might simply be gathering their thoughts. When reading body language, look at multiple cues to gain a more complete understanding.

Being aware of your own body language

Remember that your nonverbal cues are also conveying messages to people around you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and looking away from the other person, they might take that as a sign that you don’t want to talk.

If you want to encourage the person to engage with you, use positive cues, such as a gentle smile and relaxed eye contact, to project warmth. Learning ways to manage stress can help you avoid unconscious negative cues, such as frowning and holding a rigid posture.

Being empathetic requires you to make yourself vulnerable. When you hide behind an air of indifference, you make it harder for other people to trust or understand you. You also hold yourself back from feeling and understanding the full range of other people’s emotions. Here are some tips on opening up:

Reframe how you think of vulnerability . Maybe you’ve been taught that it’s a sign of weakness. Opening up to others—trusting them to listen and accept you and your flaws—requires courage.

Speak up . Tell your loved ones how you’re truly feeling. This requires you to reflect on your own emotional state as well as practice being open with others. Be prepared to accept and communicate intense emotions, including shame, jealousy, and grief . The more you talk about emotions, the more comfortable you’ll become. You’ll also notice that other people will be more willing to open up to you in return.

Say what you need . Make a habit of vocalizing your needs. Do you need someone to vent to? Or maybe you need physical help with something. Talking about your needs is healthier than suffering in silence. Not only does it make your life easier, but it also makes your loved ones feel trusted and needed.

Ease into it . If you have a hard time talking about your emotions or voicing your needs, just take things one step at a time. Maybe you can tell your friend about something that frustrated you about your workday. You can also tell them about parts of your day that made you feel excited and joyful. Or start by making a small request of your partner: “Can we go for a walk together this evening? Walking helps me feel less stressed.”

Don’t dwell too much on your reputation or perfection . If you’re overly focused on how other people perceive you, you might hesitate to be forthcoming. Maybe you feel you need to put up a facade to appear strong and unbothered. Try to let go of that idea and begin to embrace your imperfections. Being honest will draw you closer to the people who matter.

Emotional intelligence (sometimes called emotional quotient or EQ) is your ability to identify emotions and use them in ways that improve your life. For example, someone with high EQ knows how to relieve their own stress as well as deescalate heated arguments. EQ also enhances your ability to empathize with others, since it involves recognizing and understanding their emotions.

Emotional intelligence is often defined by four attributes: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. Here are tips for building on each one:

Improve self-management by learning ways to cope with stress . Stress can make it difficult for you to be present, impairing your ability to assess emotions and social situations. So, learning a few stress-relieving strategies is an important step in enhancing your EQ. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, to help you stay calm in the moment. Other practices, including exercise and meditation , are actions you can take each day to lower your overall stress.

Heighten self-awareness with mindfulness practices . Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment but withholding judgment. You can use this to connect with and accept whatever emotions you’re currently feeling. Are you upset? Are you anxious? Rather than label these emotions as “bad” or “negative,” foster curiosity about them. What caused them? What do they physically feel like? Are they affecting your interactions with others? In addition to making you more self-aware, this practice can improve your ability to process emotions and increase emotional well-being.

[Read: Emotional Intelligence Toolkit]

Increase social awareness by focusing on other people . Mindfulness can help you with this task as well. Aim to be present with whoever you’re interacting with. What’s their body language like? Is there a topic they keep circling back to? Connect this social awareness to your self-awareness. Is the person saying or doing anything that is stirring your emotions? Maybe their body language is putting you at ease. Or maybe they’re saying something that makes you anxious.

Use conflict resolution skills to manage relationships . Even when you’re interacting with your best friend or closest family member, disagreements are bound to arise. You might have differing opinions on politics. Or perhaps your plans for a joint vacation don’t match up. Maybe one of you accidentally offends the other. Knowing how to pick your battles, compromise, and practice forgiveness can help you navigate these inevitable conflicts.

People are more likely to feel empathy toward people who are similar to them. You might feel more inclined to empathize with and help someone who looks like you, behaves like you, shares your goals, or experiences similar hardships. Unfortunately, this can lead to empathy biases when it comes to differences in factors like race, religion, or culture. Here are a few ways to counter that.

Actively expose yourself to new perspectives . If you’re an atheist, attend a religious ceremony. If you’re politically conservative, listen to podcasts that present a liberal perspective. If you’re used to city life, spend some time in rural communities. Look for common ground, but also acknowledge differences. You don’t necessarily have to agree with every perspective you come across. However, taking the time to simply listen with an open mind can help you see the humanity in people with different backgrounds or views.

Enjoy fiction . Even engaging with the perspectives of fictional characters can enhance your empathy. As you read a novel, you try to understand a character’s motives, goals, and emotional states. In other words, you’re exercising your ability to empathize. The same is true whenever you watch a character-driven television show or movie. Consider embracing novels, movies, and other works of art made by people from different cultural backgrounds. For example, if you’re white, read more books by Latino authors.

Be willing to question your assumptions . As you engage with people of different backgrounds, you'll likely find that many of your earlier notions of them were inaccurate. It's okay to admit to being wrong. Frame it as a learning experience. You can also begin to question your assumptions in daily situations. Perhaps your friend has a good reason for running late. Maybe that taxi driver was rude because he was under heavy stress. Practice using “what-ifs” to consider other perspectives.

It's true that building empathy is a way to expand your social circle and boost your happiness. But don’t overlook the benefits it has for the people you encounter as well. Empathy can have a ripple effect. As you take the time to truly listen to others, you’re providing them with some level of emotional comfort. And it’s possible that you’re making it easier for them to trust, comfort, and empathize with even more people.

More Information

  • Five Ways Empathy Is Good for Your Health - Focusing on others is important for them, but can also be good for you. (Psychology Today)
  • Can I Have Empathy If I Am Autistic? - People with ASD can experience empathy—sometimes overwhelmingly. (Psychology Today)
  • Want to feel more connected? Practice empathy - Three ways to practice empathy. (Harvard Health Publishing)
  • Andersen, F. A., Johansen, A.-S. B., Søndergaard, J., Andersen, C. M., & Assing Hvidt, E. (2020). Revisiting the trajectory of medical students’ empathy, and impact of gender, specialty preferences and nationality: A systematic review. BMC Medical Education , 20(1), 52. Link
  • Baskin-Sommers, A., Krusemark, E., & Ronningstam, E. (2014). Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: From clinical and empirical perspectives. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment , 5(3), 323–333. Link
  • Christov-Moore, L., & Iacoboni, M. (2019). Sex differences in somatomotor representations of others’ pain: A permutation-based analysis. Brain Structure and Function, 224(2), 937–947. Link
  • Cultivating empathy . (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2022, from Link
  • Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very Happy People. Psychological Science , 13(1), 81–84. Link
  • Fletcher-Watson, S., & Bird, G. (2020). Autism and empathy: What are the real links? Autism , 24(1), 3–6. Link
  • Healey, M. L., & Grossman, M. (2018). Cognitive and Affective Perspective-Taking: Evidence for Shared and Dissociable Anatomical Substrates. Frontiers in Neurology , 9, 491. Link
  • Hojat, M., Vergare, M. J., Maxwell, K., Brainard, G., Herrine, S. K., Isenberg, G. A., Veloski, J., & Gonnella, J. S. (2009). The Devil is in the Third Year: A Longitudinal Study of Erosion of Empathy in Medical School: Academic Medicine , 84(9), 1182–1191. Link
  • Kajonius, P. J., & Björkman, T. (2020). Individuals with dark traits have the ability but not the disposition to empathize. Personality and Individual Differences , 155, 109716. Link
  • Kanske, P., Böckler, A., Trautwein, F.-M., Parianen Lesemann, F. H., & Singer, T. (2016). Are strong empathizers better mentalizers? Evidence for independence and interaction between the routes of social cognition. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience , 11(9), 1383–1392. Link
  • Niedtfeld, I. (2017). Experimental investigation of cognitive and affective empathy in borderline personality disorder: Effects of ambiguity in multimodal social information processing. Psychiatry Research , 253, 58–63. Link
  • Nunes, P., Williams, S., Sa, B., & Stevenson, K. (2011). A study of empathy decline in students from five health disciplines during their first year of training. International Journal of Medical Education , 2, 12–17. Link
  • Riess, H. (2017). The Science of Empathy. Journal of Patient Experience , 4(2), 74–77. Link
  • the iPSYCH-Broad autism group, the 23andMe Research Team, Warrier, V., Toro, R., Chakrabarti, B., Børglum, A. D., Grove, J., Hinds, D. A., Bourgeron, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: Correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa. Translational Psychiatry , 8(1), 35. Link
  • Wagaman, M. A., Geiger, J. M., Shockley, C., & Segal, E. A. (2015). The Role of Empathy in Burnout, Compassion Satisfaction, and Secondary Traumatic Stress among Social Workers. Social Work , 60(3), 201–209. Link
  • When watching others in pain, women’s brains show more empathy | UCLA . (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2022, from Link
  • Women more likely than men to say they feel empathy for the suffering | Pew Research Center . (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2022, from Link
  • Wu, R., Liu, L.-L., Zhu, H., Su, W.-J., Cao, Z.-Y., Zhong, S.-Y., Liu, X.-H., & Jiang, C.-L. (2019). Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Emotion Processing. Frontiers in Neuroscience , 13, 1074. Link

More in Communication

Boost your emotional intelligence to help you be happy and successful

how does empathy help with problem solving

Tips to avoid conflict and improve work and personal relationships

how does empathy help with problem solving

How to read body language to build better relationships at home and work

how does empathy help with problem solving

Tips for handling conflicts, arguments, and disagreements

how does empathy help with problem solving

Tips and techniques for getting anger under control

how does empathy help with problem solving

Using laughter and play to resolve disagreements

how does empathy help with problem solving

Turning Off the Gas on Your Gaslighter

5 ways to deal with gaslighting

how does empathy help with problem solving

Strengthen your connections and improve your self-esteem

how does empathy help with problem solving

Professional therapy, done online

BetterHelp makes starting therapy easy. Take the assessment and get matched with a professional, licensed therapist.

Help us help others

Millions of readers rely on HelpGuide.org for free, evidence-based resources to understand and navigate mental health challenges. Please donate today to help us save, support, and change lives.

Making Caring Common

Resources For Educators

Welcome to Making Caring Common’s Resources for Educators, Teachers, Counselors, School Administrators, and School Leaders!

We offer strategies, resources lists, audits, surveys, discussion guides, and more, which we hope you will use in your school. You can review the list of resources below or click to sort by the following topics: Bias, Bullying, Caring and Empathy, Gender, Leadership, Moral and Ethical Development, Romantic Relationships, School Culture and Climate, Sexual Harassment and Misogyny, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and Talking Across the Aisle.

  • Caring and Empathy
  • College Admissions
  • Educator Resources
  • Elementary School
  • For Educators
  • Mental Health
  • Moral and Ethical Development
  • Relationship Mapping
  • Romantic Relationships
  • School Culture and Climate
  • Sexual Harassment and Misogyny
  • Social - Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Talking Across the Aisle
  • gender bias

How to Build Empathy and Strengthen Your School Community

Empathy is a key part of being a responsible and helpful community member at school and elsewhere. for example, young people who show empathy are less likely to bully. empathy can also be a route to academic and career success, because it helps people understand and work with others..

Although it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of work to build empathy, it does take attention and commitment — but it’s worth it for students, educators, and the school community. Studies show that when young people have empathy, they display:

More classroom engagement

Higher academic achievement

Better communication skills

Lower likelihood of bullying

Less aggressive behaviors and emotional disorders

More positive relationships

To help educators learn how to build empathy among their school communities, Making Caring Common reviewed existing research on empathy and the strategies of evidence-based programs that promote it. Our work shows that there’s more to developing empathy than simply asking students to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”

In this resource, you’ll find steps you can take to build real empathy in your students and your community. Looking for a more structured approach? MCC's Caring Schools Network (CSN) supports K-12 schools in cultivating strong, caring school communities.

Overview For: Educators Ages: K-12 Resource Type: Tips

Understanding empathy

The word empathy is used a lot, but what does it really mean? Empathy is a concerned response to another person’s feelings. It involves thinking, feeling, and even a physical reaction that our bodies have to other people when we relate to how they feel. To have empathy, we have to notice and understand others’ feelings, but that isn’t enough. We also need to care about and value them. Con men and torturers are very good at taking others’ perspectives, but they don’t have empathy for them.

Building empathy

Children and teenagers naturally have the capacity for empathy, but that doesn’t mean they develop it on their own. They learn how to notice, listen, and care by watching and listening to adults and peers, and they take cues from these people about why empathy is important. All school adults – teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, administrators, and others – play a role in helping students develop and display empathy.

One role school adults can play is helping students expand their circle of concern. People are inclined to feel more empathy for those who are similar to them or in close proximity to them. But when it comes to building a school community and developing caring students, that’s not enough. In strong school communities, students (and adults) have empathy for everyone – including those who are different in background, beliefs, or other ways. When educators show that they care about everyone in the school community and expect students to do the same, it can help students open their eyes and ears to others, including those who are sometimes treated as invisible.

Another important role is encouraging students to take the leap from having empathy to acting on it. Too often, we assume that young people will automatically know what to do when they feel concern for a peer or an adult, and then do it. But we all sometimes fall into the empathy-action gap, when we care about a person or cause but don’t do anything to help. Educators can help young people overcome this gap by modeling and encouraging them to take action, whether it’s standing up for someone who is teased, helping to solve a problem, or simply listening to someone who is feeling down.

Barriers to empathy

Even with this kind of encouragement, some things can get in the way of noticing others, feeling empathy, and acting on that empathy. These barriers include feeling different or distant from another person. They also include feeling overwhelmed or distressed by concern for another person, because that can make it hard to act.

To help prevent and overcome these and other barriers, educators can help students

Notice and reject stereotypes

Respect and value differences

Widen their circle of concern

Listen closely to peers and adults

Manage difficult feelings like sadness, anger, and frustration

Navigate social situations ethically and fairly

Five essential steps for schools

1. model empathy.

When frustrated with students, pause and take a deep breath and try to see the situation from their perspective before responding.

When a student is upset, reflect back his feelings or the rationale for his behavior before redirecting the behavior.

Be aware of students’ non-verbal cues and follow up on them. For example, if a student is slumping in her chair and appearing withdrawn or angry, say something like “I noticed that you are quieter than usual today. Is something bothering you?” rather than immediately reprimanding her.

Ask for students’ input when appropriate and feasible (for example, when establishing classroom rules or generating ideas for group projects) – and really listen. Find opportunities to incorporate their feedback and respond to their needs.

2. Teach what empathy is and why it matters

Clearly explain that empathy means understanding and caring about another person’s feelings and taking action to help. Explain how it improves the classroom and school community.

Stress the importance of noticing and having empathy for people beyond immediate friends, including those who are different or who are too often invisible.

Give examples of how to act on empathy, such as helping, showing kindness, or even simply listening.

3. Practice

Create opportunities to practice taking another’s perspective and imagining what others are thinking. Play charades and do role plays, read and discuss books, and use “what would you do” style vignettes or case studies.

Name the barriers to empathy, like stereotypes, stress, or fears of social consequences for helping an unpopular peer. Share specific strategies to overcome them. For example, encourage students to privately offer kind and supportive words to a student who was bullied.

Foster emotional and social skills, like dealing with anger and frustration and solving conflicts. Use an evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program and teach specific routines for calming down and resolving disputes. Use advisories and guidance counseling to develop social and ethical skills.

4. Set clear ethical expectations

Be clear that you expect students to care about one another and the entire school community. Don’t just put it in the mission statement or on a poster – talk about it, model it, praise it, and hold students to it.

Do an exercise with students to help them reflect on who is inside and outside their circle. Discuss why and how they can expand the circle of who they care about.

Establish specific guidelines for unacceptable language and behaviors. Ban slurs or hurtful language like “that’s retarded” or “he’s so gay,” even when said ironically or in jest — and step in if you hear them. Encourage students to think about why these words can be hurtful.

Enlist students in establishing rules and holding each other accountable.

Use restorative justice practices and peer mediation when conflicts arise.

5. Make school culture and climate a priority

Collect data from students and staff at least once a year about whether they feel safe, respected, and cared about at school.

Take time to examine the data and make efforts to address problem areas identified by students and staff.

Avoid over-emphasizing comparative evaluation, getting ahead by beating others, or other pressures that can erode trust and undermine empathy.

Authored by: Stephanie Jones, Rick Weissbourd, Suzanne Bouffard, Jennifer Kahn, and Trisha Ross Anderson of the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This resource is based on a research and program review supported by the Ashoka Empathy Initiative. Last reviewed October 2018.

Related resources

Build-It Challenge

how does empathy help with problem solving

The Role of Empathy in Environmental Protection

how does empathy help with problem solving

Terence Lester says that “to really understand something, we often need to experience it for ourselves or at least hear the story of someone who has experienced it.”

This captures the importance of empathy when it comes to problem solving.

And when it comes to understanding our environment and its challenges, empathy is especially important. Without it, we run the risk of working only at a broad theoretical level, while missing the urgent heart of the matter.

Empathy gives us a truer picture of the problem

I remember how clearly some of my earliest visits to Plant With Purpose’s programs spelled out how change was possible.

Tui, our former Thailand director pointed off the side of the road towards some barren hills. The whole thing was brown and rocky, with only the occasional patch of dried up grass.

“Ten years ago, this is what that village looked like," he said.

The village we had just spent time in looked like the complete opposite. Lush and thriving.

Being able to visually see the effects of both environmental degradation and restoration made everything more real. Drought, food insecurity, and deforestation were no longer abstract concepts- they could be vividly felt.

Empathy is what happens when love opens our eyes to the way other people see and experience the world. Just because an issue might not be right in front of us doesn’t mean that it’s not in front of someone.

We can remember what global problems mean for people like us

There have been so many studies that show people are more likely to help a single child when they know her name, see her face, and know one fact about her, than they are to support efforts to help a larger number of people.

As humans, we are wired around stories more so than statistics, and while both play an important part in helping us understand the world, the former repeatedly shows a stronger ability to erase apathy.

Desire works in Haiti

Desire works in Haiti

This is not faulty wiring. It stems from the fact that we are built for relationship. And that’s why we’re better able to understand a global issue through the example of a small story.

These remind us that our climate crisis isn’t just about scary numbers. It’s about somebody like Emma being able to put her kids in school. Deforestation is a matter of someone in Haiti like Gernita being able to feed her family.

Empathy focuses on our greater identity

The way we see ourselves influences the way we interact with others. If we see ourselves as responsible parents, that affects how we relate to our children. If we see ourselves as stewards of the Earth and not just consumers, that influences our daily decision making.

When we are able to come alongside partners in rural Mexico or Burundi, we are reminded of our identity in God’s global family. We grow motivated to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters as partners, not projects.

When you listen to somebody’s story, their life or their experiences, with an open heart and mind, you start to lose a sense of us and them . Unity grows and we are reminded of the spirit of unity and diversity that God intended for the world.

By staying true to our identity as followers of Christ, we can approach issues of environmental justice in a way that frees us. We are free from both the pressure to save the world and the temptation to choose apathy.

Do you want an opportunity to stand in solidarity with villages facing poverty and environmental challenges all around the world? Sign up here to become a Purpose Partner!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

how does empathy help with problem solving

  • Vision & Mission
  • Careers & Internships
  • Privacy Policy
  • Donor Privacy Policy

We Support:

how does empathy help with problem solving

Memberships & Certifications:

how does empathy help with problem solving

Inspiring Stories. Actionable insights.

HOME - open only this page -   put into left frame  

Empathy in problem solving   , for projects and relationships.

Understanding other people, by thinking with empathy, is almost always essential for skillful design thinking, for solving problems.  You use design thinking (with empathy) for almost everything in life , so empathy can help you achieve a wide variety of objectives, in design projects and in relationships as described in an overview of using empathy in Design-Thinking Process by asking empathy questions — "What do THEY want?" and "What do I want?" and, combining these, "What do WE want?" — while you're trying to achieve win-win results.

In the following sections about empathy, later we'll explore the similarities between Empathy (to understand others) & Metacognition (to understand self) and will examine the Empathy-Ecology of a Classroom .

But we'll begin by asking...

What is empathy?

It's useful to think about — and think with, * and cultivate in yourself & others — different kinds of empathy :   Cognitive Empathy by cognitively understanding the feeling-and-thinking and behaviors of another person;   Emotional Empathy (aka Affective Empathy ) by feeling what another person feels;   Compassionate Empathy (aka Compassion or Empathic Concern or Compassionate Concern ) is a desire for the well-being of another person.

For most purposes, including education, it seems more useful to think about 2 kinds of empathy (Cognitive & Emotional) instead of 3, and to focus on the Cognitive Empathy that I think is more learn-able and generally is more beneficially useful for problem solving, for making things better. *    Why 2, not 3?  Instead of Compassionate Empathy, I prefer the term Empathic Concern because it places attention on the compassionate Concern (the Compassion ) that is produced by Cognitive Empathy (perhaps combined with Emotional Empathy ) and is motivated by Kindness .     /    *  There is wide variation in the terms used, and their definitions;  a comprehensive Literature Review about Empathy Training includes a recognition that "there are as many researchers acknowledging discrepancies in the use of the term, as there are inconsistent definitions."   many definitions of empathy(s)

also - How wide is the scope of "others"?  In addition to other humans, we also can have empathy for animals — such as a monkey or dolphin, dog or cat, parrot or lizard — although the accuracy of our empathy is limited by significant differences between us and them in our experiences of thinking & feeling, and our difficulties in communicating with them.

* Do we "think with" empathy?  Both kinds of empathy, cognitive and emotional, are important.  But this is a website about thinking that is productive for problem solving, so I'll be saying more about Cognitive Empathy, which is the ability to understand what another person is thinking-and-feeling.

Developing and Using a Growth Mindset for

Improving emotional-and-social intelligence.

As part of a whole-person education for ideas-and-skills & more a teacher can help students learn how to more effectively use both kinds of empathy, by improving their Cognitive Empathies and Emotional Empathies, and their skills in being aware (cognitively and emotionally) of the thinking & feeling of others in a wide variety of life-situations, and also (with metacognitive self-empathy ) of themselves.  These essential components of Emotional Intelligence* are closely related to Social Intelligence.   Students can improve all of their multiple intelligences (including emotional-and-social) when they develop-and-use a growth mindset by believing that their abilities are not fixed at the current levels, instead each ability can become better, can be “grown” when they invest intelligent effort to improve this kind of ability.

    * Psychology Today describes Emotional Intelligence as "the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.   Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills:  emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one's own emotions [by using self-empathy, and by using empathy to "identify and name" another person's emotions];  the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and [to "make things better" in ways that include improved relationships] problem solving;  and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one's own emotions when necessary, and helping others to do the same."  { em phasis and [comments] added by me}

Two closely related abilities – Social Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence – are combined in educational programs * to improve the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) that is briefly defined by ca sel .org — "social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions" — in the introduction for What is SEL?      { *   and people improve these skills informally by learning from their life-experiences }

As part of a school's Social-Emotional Learning to improve Social Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence , teachers can help students improve their Cognitive Empathy & Emotional Empathy and their Empathic Concern and Compassionate Action.

Compassion in Action:   A process that produces compassionate action occurs in a sequence:  cognitive empathy and/or emotional empathy, plus kindness, may produce empathic concern for a person, which may produce a desire to help them, and then action to help them.     /    The whole process can occur quickly, as with emergency action, or during a long period of time.  Or action may not occur at all, if the sequence is broken at any point.

Compassion in Design:   A process of design may lead to Compassionate Action if, for any area of life, * Empathic Concern is a motivating-and-guiding factor when you Define a Problem by Choosing an Objective and Defining Goal-Criteria.     { * compassionate action can be motivated by empathic concern in traditional design projects and in relationships }

Is empathy always useful?   In most design projects – even when you are not motivated mainly by compassion – it's very useful to think with empathy . { why do I say "most" projects, instead of “all”? }   And self-empathy , to understand yourself, is useful when your objective is a personal decision or a personal thinking strategy .   {more about empathy and self-empathy }

Human-Centered Design:   Because "empathy is the foundation of a human-centered design process," d.school (of Stanford) emphasizes the importance of a mode for Empathy by including it (when you search for "empath") in 19 of its 47 pages.  And one of their mindsets for design-thinking is to Focus on Human Values.    { Empathy in Design Thinking with d.school and DEEPdt}  { designing with empathy and self-empathy }

Accuracy in Empathy

Do you have an accurate understanding of people?  If you are surprised by a behavior — because your Observations (of how a person responds, in what they do or say) don't match your Predictions (your expectations) — something is wrong with your empathetic understanding of the way other people are thinking & feeling, of how they will respond in this situation.  Why?

When you do a Reality Check by comparing Predictions with Observations, a mis-match can occur due to...

    your inadequate Observations in the past, or     your incorrect interpretations of these Observations when you constructed an explanatory Theory/Model (used to make Predictions ) for this aspect of human feeling/thinking-and-behaving, in one of the areas (re: psychology, sociology, economics, marketing, politics,...) studied by Social Sciences.     Or maybe the other person(s) responded in an unusual way, not consistent with their previous feeling & thinking & actions.

view only this page -   put into left frame  

Empathy in design projects.

In all phases of a traditional Design Project — especially in Modes 1A and 1B when you Choose an Objective and Define Desired Goal-Properties for a product (or activity, strategy, theory) — it's important to think with empathy.   This is important for your Solution-Users and for those (you and maybe others) who are Solution-Designers.

Empathy for Solution-Users:   You learn about the thinking-and-behavior of potential users of a product by getting observations — old (already known by yourself or others) or new (from your own new studies) from customer interviews, focus groups, market surveys,... — that help you understand, with better insights into “how will they use the product? what do they need? and want?”  Ask users for feedback (positive & negative), for constructive criticism and suggestions.  By creatively imagining what it's like to “be a user and think like a user” from their perspective, make predictions. *   Also try to “think like a buyer” or (in another aspect of the project) to “think like a seller.”  These information-gathering activities will help you supplement your internal egocentric thinking with externally-oriented empathetic thinking for all stake - holders in a project, for everyone who will be involved in (or affected by) the project in any way, who will design, make, market, distribute, sell, buy, use, or service the product, or be involved or affected in other ways.

* Predictive Empathy:  Usually you'll try to "think like a buyer/user" in their future, which may differ from their thinking in the present.   For example, Helen Walters describes the "approach to customer research [of Steve Jobs, who said] ‘It isn't the consumers' job to know what they want.’  Jobs is comfortable hanging out in the world of the unknown, and this confidence allows him to take risks and make intuitive bets" by using empathy-based predictions of what buyers/users will want later, even if they don't yet want it now.

Relevant Empathy:  You can never fully understand another person.  Usually your main goal is relevant empathy, by trying to understand what is most important for a particular situation.  If you're designing a product, for example, you'll want to understand the thinking & feeling, the needing and wanting, of people who would use (or might buy) the product, in the context of their using the product and/or b uying it.   And for a relationship-situation, usually you focus on understanding what is most relevant in the context of that situation.

Empathy for Solution-Designers:   During a design project you'll want to develop empathy for solution-users (those you are serving), as described above .  And when you're co-designing as part of a group, you'll want to develop empathy for the other solution-designers in your team, to make your process of cooperative problem-solving more enjoyable and productive.   If members of a group improve their use of “collaborative empathy” this will improve their interactions, and will help them develop a cooperative community for creative collaboration .  This can occur in many contexts, including schools where better educational teamwork (by everyone involved in education ) will make the process more enjoyable for teachers, and more effective for students by increasing positives (in learning, performing, enjoying ) and decreasing negatives (like jealous attitudes & bullying behaviors).     { building empathy-ecology in a classroom }

Traditional and Relational:   Empathy is useful whenever you want to solve a problem by “making it better” with a traditional design project ( above ) — when you use empathy to produce a better solution (for your solution-users ) and a better process (if you're working in a team of solution-producers ) — and/or a relational design project (below) when your objective is to improve an interpersonal relationship.

Empathy in relationships  .

An Important Objective:   Originally I defined four general categories for problem-solving objectives – for when we decide to design a better product, strategy, activity, and/or theory.   Later I added relationships because our most important problems (our opportunities to make things better ) usually involve people, so improved relationships are among the most important objectives we can choose to improve.  How?  An essential foundation is developing...

Empathy and Self-Empathy to improve Two Understandings:   You can build a solid foundation for improving your relationships by improving two kinds of understandings (external and internal) with externally-oriented empathetic skills – to develop empathy (overall and also situation-specific relevant empathy ) based on external observations, trying to understand what others are feeling & thinking – and internally-oriented metacognitive skills (to develop self-empathy based on internal observations, trying to understand what you are feeling & thinking).   The practical value of these life-skills is a reason to define...

Educational Goals for Relationship Skills:   We can aim for whole-person education that will help students improve personally useful ideas & skills and more in their whole lives as whole people.  Our educational goals should include the important life-skill of building better relationships, with empathy & kindness and in other ways.  A very useful general strategy — for educating students (and yourself) in all of the multiple intelligences, including social-emotional intelligences — is to develop & consistently use a growth mindset .

Kindness plus Empathy:  When you want to be kind — and you combine your kindness with empathy — this will help you...

Choose a Win-Win Goal:   In many common life-situations, when you are trying to "make things better" your two understandings (external for others, and internal for self) are combined when you ask — while you are defining your goals — “what do they want?” (using empathy to understand others ) and (using self-empathy to understand yourself ) “what do I want?” and (if you choose to define your goal as an optimal win-win result ) “what do we want?”     /     You also make choices when you...

Define the Scope of Your Win-Win Goals:   How broadly do you define "they" when you're trying to achieve win-win results?  If you want to decrease the unfortunate tendency of positive teamwork to become negative tribalism, one strategy is for you (and those you influence) to increase your...

Understanding and Respect:   One of the many ways we can improve relationships is to develop better teamwork .  But one strategy for developing strong relationships among insiders (within a team) — by promoting hostile “us against them” attitudes toward outsiders (not in the team) — can convert positive teamwork into negative tribalism.   {   I'm calling it negative tribalism because tribe-like strong loyalties produce some positive effects and some negative effects.   }     One kind of educational activity that can help reduce the negative aspects of tribalism is examined in a page describing how my favorite high school teacher, by using informative debates in his civics class, helped us develop Accurate Understandings and Respectful Attitudes .  How?  After he helped us carefully-and-diligently study an issue, so our understandings of different position-perspectives were more accurate and thorough, usually we recognized that even when we have justifiable reasons to prefer one position, * people on other sides of an issue may also have justifiable reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do, so we learned respectful attitudes.    { *   yes, he wanted us to find "justifiable reasons" because his educational goal was not a logically-fuzzy postmodern relativism , instead he promoted a logically appropriate humility with confidence that is not too little and not too much.}     When this kind of educational process is done well, it can produce a foundation of empathetic understanding that is useful for producing authentic understanding & respect, that helps us be more kind in our feeling & thinking & actions.

Empathy without Kindness:  This can be a bad combination, when it allows the use of empathetic thinking as a tool for manipulating others in harmful ways.

Empathy plus Kindness:   This is a good combination, when empathy (a useful skill) is accompanied by kindness (an essential aspect of good character).  Thinking with empathy is beneficial for other people when it's combined with kindness-and-caring in feeling & thinking & actions, when an attitude of caring for others (in feeling & thinking) leads to caring for others (in actions), with actions motivated by kindness, by genuinely caring for other people.

Kindness in Thinking-and-Actions:   More people will have better lives...  if more of us are more often motivated by kindness, with goals of trying to “make things better” for other people, wanting to affect their lives in ways that are beneficial for them, that make life better for them;   and if our empathy-based compassionate concerns were more often actualized with kindness in our actions.

A Wonderful Life produces Beneficial Effects:   A creative illustration of helping others is my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  I like it partly for its artistry (in plot, dialogue, acting, directing, photography) but mainly for the message:  each of us affects other people – as dramatized in the end-of-movie comparison of lives with & without George Bailey – and our own life is better when we affect others in ways that make their lives better, and help them achieve worthy goals in life.   We can help others enjoy what they do, and (when they “pass it on”) do more actions that benefit others, and more fully develop their whole-person potentials.

Helping Others achieve Their Goals:   For understanding how we can be more beneficial — by helping another person "enjoy..." and "more fully develop their whole-person potentials" so they are becoming a better version of themself, growing into the kind of “ideal person” they want to be, or they should be — a useful perspective is the Michelangelo Phenomenon;   this concept was developed by social psychologists, with Caryl Rusbult ( my wonderful sister ) being a main developer.  As described in a review article by Rusbult, Finkel, & Kumashiro: "close partners sculpt one another's selves, shaping one another's skills and traits [analogous to Michelangelo's Actions while shaping a piece of stone so it becomes a beautiful work of art] and promoting versus inhibiting one another's goal pursuits... of attaining his or her ideal-self goals" in the "dreams and aspirations, or the constellation of skills, traits, and resources that an individual ideally wishes to acquire."  When lovingly influential Michelangelo Actions are done well, the beneficial effects usually are lovingly appreciated, as we see in "Love" by Roy Croft:  "I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me."   Or in the language of education, when feedback-actions help another person improve, this is formative feedback that helps them “form themselves” into a better person.   Of course, a beneficial shaping influence — a teaching influence that helps them develop a growth mindset about improving their skills with social-emotional intelligences and relational empathy — can come from a "close partner" and also others, including friends and family, counselors, fellow students & team members & co-workers, and teachers & coaches & supervisors.

Golden Rule with Empathy:   For building mutually beneficial relationships, one useful principle-for-life is a Golden Rule with Empathy that combines kindness with empathy, by treating others in ways THEY want to be treated, which may differ from what you would want. *   Treating others this way will be beneficial for them, and also for you (especially in the long run), in a wide variety of situations.     /     *   But it doesn't really "differ from what you would want," if we look more deeply.  Why?  You want others to empathetically understand you, and then treat you the way you want to be treated.   Other people also want this, so you should Seek First to Understand (with Habit 5 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ) and then use a Golden Rule , e.g. "Do for others what you want them to do for you" by treating them the way THEY want to be treated.

Empathy for Society:   I.O.U. – This paragraph might be written before mid-2023, with ideas from John Rawls:  imagine you are part of a group in Original Position (before you're born) that is designing a society with the goal of making life optimal for all,  and you are self-interested in "all" because – with a Veil of Ignorance – you don't know “who you will be” when you are born, re: your multiple intelligences, looks, race, health, wealth, status, location,... ;   in reality we cannot be “ignorant of our situation” now, during life as it really is, but we can use empathy + kindness/compassion in our thinking about society.    {for more, an article by Richard Beck, Empathy, the Veil of Ignorance, and Justice }

Clever and Kind:   Abraham Heschel, sharing an insightful observation based on self-empathy, wisely said "When I was young, I admired clever people.  Now that I am old, I admire kind people."   Teachers can help students, while they are still young, appreciate the value of being truly clever (with skills in creative-and-critical productive thinking to solve problems to make things better) and also kind.

Empathy and Metacognition

These related ways of thinking – helping you understand others , and understand yourself – are very useful in all areas of life, including education.  This section — first in Goals & Perspectives, then in RESULTS and PROCESS , and Using Empathetic Feedback in a Classroom — will examine ideas & strategies that can help a teacher and students develop better empathy-ecology in their classroom .

Goals & Perspectives

Empathy and Metacognition have similar goals (to understand thinking & feeling) but different orientation-perspectives, re: external and internal.

    • With empathy you try to understand the thinking & feeling of others, who are external to you.     {  two empathies and a result : cognitive empathy (used "to understand" thinking & feeling) plus emotional empathy (to feel) can produce empathic concern.  }     • With metacognition ( self-empathy ) you try to understand your own internal thinking (& feeling).     { In its basic definition, with metacognition you "think about your thinking. "  But in practice, thinking and feeling are related, often with strong mutual influences.  Therefore, typically it's useful to “think about your thinking AND feeling . ” }

External & Internal, for You and Others:

    everyone – you and others – thinks with externally-oriented empathy, to understand the thinking & feeling of other people;     everyone – you and others – thinks with internally-oriented metacognition, to understand your own thinking & feeling.

The external & internal understandings constructed by you are summarized in the 1st & 2nd rows-of-cells in this table.

The 3rd & 4th cell-rows describe the external & internal understandings constructed by another person .

Metacognition and Self-Empathy:  These terms have the same meaning, in this page.  More generally, when these terms are used by others, typically with metacognition the emphasis is more heavily on thinking, and with self-empathy it's on feeling (but also thinking).

other terms:  a metacognitive understanding is aka personal metacognitive knowledge that is one aspect of a person's overall general-and-personal metacognitive knowledge .  By analogy, empathetic understanding also can be called empathetic knowledge, although the term metacognitive knowledge is used much more often.

RESULTS  —  Perspectives and Understandings

By comparing understandings of YOU in the 2nd & 3rd cell-rows, or of THEM in the 1st & 4th rows, you can see how understandings ( of YOU , or of THEM ) depend on point-of-view perspectives (on whether the constructing is done by you , or by them ).

two pov-perspectives on YOU, in rows 2 & 3:  You use internal metacognition (self-empathy) to construct your understanding of YOUR thinking & feeling.  And another person uses external empathy to construct their understanding of YOUR thinking & feeling.  It can be interesting to compare these two understandings, asking “How do I view me? How do they view me?” and “What are the similarities? and differences?” and “Why do the differences occur?” and “Which understanding is more accurate ? and in what ways?”

three pov-perspectives on ANOTHER PERSON, in rows 1 & 4 & _:  You also can make comparisons and ask questions (about similarities & differences, and accuracy), re: understandings of ANOTHER PERSON – “How do I view THEM ? How does this person view THEMSELF ?  And, not shown in the table, how do other people view THEM ?”

When we compare empathy (to understand others) with metacognition (to understand self), we see many similarities and analogous relationships in the PROCESS used (below) and (above) the RESULT produced .

PROCESS  —  constructing Empathy & Metacognition

Now we'll shift attention from RESULTS to PROCESS.

We construct our understandings (of others & self) in a social context, so it's useful to distinguish between...

Understanding and Feedback:  We construct (i.e. we develop) feedback in a two-step process.  First we use empathy or metacognition to construct understanding that we use, after evaluative filtering, to provide feedback for others, with communication.   { Understanding and Feedback, Part 2 }

You construct your external EMPATHY (it's your understanding of ANOTHER PERSON ) when you internally interpret all of the evidence you find.   You can use three kinds of evidence:  your observations of the person ;  feedback about the person from other people;  feedback about self from the person.

You construct your internal SELF-EMPATHY (to get your understanding of YOURSELF ) when you internally interpret all of the evidence you find.   You can use two kinds of evidence:  your observations of yourself ;  and feedback about you from others.

{an option: If the table below is too wide for easy reading in your browser window, you can temporarily view this page in a new full-width window . }

The first 4 rows in the tables above (for RESULTS) and below (for PROCESS) are matched, re: who is trying to understand WHO .  Below,

    The 1st and 2nd rows summarize-and-organize the processes you use to construct your understandings of ANOTHER and YOURSELF .     The 3rd and 4th rows describe how, using the same processes, another person constructs their other-understanding of YOU , and their self-understanding of THEMSELF .  The 5th row shows how they construct their other-understanding of ANOTHER PERSON, of someone who isn't YOU or THEM, and thus is a THIRD PERSON .

Did you notice that the 3rd & 5th rows are analogous but with one difference?   (what is it? the 5th-row process can include one extra evidence that is "feedback-about-third from you")

Understanding and Feedback  —  These are related, but different.  They occur in sequence:

    1. First you use empathy and observations-of-performance, trying to get accurate understandings of another person(s), and of their performance(s).     2. Then if you want to provide helpful feedback, * you will wisely filter your understandings by not saying everything you are thinking, but only what will be helpful.   You do this by deciding, for each person or group, what to say (and not say), when and how, or whether to say nothing.  The goal is to be helpful by providing formative feedback with an intention, and hopefully a result, of being kind and beneficial .   /   *  Unfortunately, sometimes (if a person doesn't want to be kind-and-beneficial) the feedback is intended to be un-helpful.     1-during-2:  An empathetic understanding (developed in Step 1) is used (in Step 2) during the process of filtering, when you're deciding the details (the what/when/how-and-whether) of providing feedback that will be helpful.

MORE - Other useful strategies for providing helpful feedback are in two places:  Developing a Creative (and critical) Community by trying to minimize any "harshness" in feedback-providing and feedback-receiving;  Evaluation is Argumentation that in a group requires "the social skills of communication" when you combine Evaluative Thinking with a Persuasion Strategy and Communication Skills, along with productive Attitudes while Arguing.

Using Empathetic Feedback in a Classroom

The three * s — above in the table-for-process and below in descriptions of each * — are three kinds of "feedback... from you ."  Imagine that you are a teacher , and two of your students are Sue (" a person ", aka " them ") and John (" a third person ", aka " third ").

How will you use these 3 kinds of empathy-based feedbacks?  If you're an effective teacher, then (in cell-Rows 4, 5, and 3)...

    * You want to provide feedback that will help Sue construct a better self-understanding of HERSELF .  (This is her SELF-EMPATHY, aka her METACOGNITION, in Row 4.)   /   a new term: Sue's own internal METACOGNITION (by "thinking about Sue's thinking) is being supplemented by your feedback-to-her about her, which is aka external metacognition because it's the "thinking about Sue's thinking" that is externally supplied by you, as an empathetic observer.     * You want to provide feedback that will help Sue (and other students) construct a better other-understanding of JOHN .  (This is her EMPATHY for A THIRD PERSON in Row 5.)   /  You can provide feedback-to-others about all of your students, individually and collectively, to influence each student's other-understandings of their fellow students, and attitudes toward them.     * You want to provide feedback that will help Sue construct a better other-understanding of YOU .  (This is her EMPATHY for YOU in Row 3.) 

With a particular feedback, you want to help a student understand themself (Row 4), or another student (Row 5), or you (Row 3).

Building an Ecology of Empathy in a Classroom

All of these * -feedbacks are one part of the complex personal interactions (simplistically symbolized in the diagram) that occur in every classroom.  In this context, "better self-understanding" and "better other-understanding" will help all of you — Teacher , Student (like Sue or John), and students (in the whole class, or in smaller groups) — develop a better ecology of empathy in your classroom.

In the interactions-diagram, arrows indicate a variety of interactions, including communications that are verbal (with * -feedbacks and in other ways) and non-verbal:

    two arrows point away from the Teacher (you) who can communicate with only one Student (like Sue) or with two or more students .     two arrows point away from the Student (Sue) who can communicate with you , or with one or more other students .     two arrows point away from students (John & others) who can communicate with you , or with any other Student (s).   {note: A complex diagram that is more-complete would show more kinds of interactions between students, as individuals and in groups.}

A skilled teacher will provide guidance for students in how to " wisely filter " their communications (using feedback and in other ways) with the teacher and each other, so their interactions will be helpful.   A wise evaluating-and-filtering should be based on a foundation of healthy interpersonal motivations, with each student wanting to be kind, wanting to affect others in beneficial ways.

Shared Goals and Individual Goals:  In ideal educational teamwork the teacher and all students will have shared educational goals of “greatest good for the greatest number” with optimal learning-performing-enjoying for everyone in the classroom.  But each student also will have their own personal goals that include wanting to improve their interpersonal relationships and personal education .

Habit 5 of Highly Effective People is "Seek first to understand, then to be understood. "  As a teacher, you can use this habit/principle in (at least) two ways:

    When you provide feedback , in Step 1 you try to understand Sue, as a foundation for Step 2 when you help her understand your view of her and what she is doing and how she can improve.   {your feedback is one aspect of stimulating and guiding students}     In the third * -feedback you try to understand Sue, so (with your * -feedback about yourself) you can help her understand you .

Building Empathy-Ecology for a Classroom

I.O.U. - Below are some ideas that eventually, maybe by mid-2019, will be developed more fully.

a humble disclaimer:  This section is just ideas, and most of the ideas (maybe all of them) aren't really new.  I'm just describing some goals of skilled teachers, and some strategies they already are using to effectively pursue their goals.

Important foundational ideas, essential for this section, are in other parts of the website:

• empathy-ecology performs a valuable function in a system of strategies for teaching by helping a teacher provide formative feedback that will help students improve their performing-enjoying-learning and their system of self-perceptions and...

    more generally, will help guide our goal-directed designing of coordinated curriculum & instruction .

• definitions for empathy(s) & metacognition and their Process (of construction) & Result (in understanding) and their uses (by teacher & students) in developing a classroom ecology .  /  [[here are ideas that will be developed later: motivational teamwork for cooperation-collaboration in education, at all levels, including Teaching Strategies for students (re: how they influence the learning of other students, directly with peer teaching, and indirectly/unofficially);  being motivated, as on a sports team, to establish an education-culture for better learning/performing/enjoying;  a HMW for students, in activity where they ask "How Might We" design our own ideal culture/environment for optimal learning, to pursue a “greatest good for the greatest number of students” and for the teacher.]]

strategies for thinking (in a wide variety of contexts ) by learning from experience , and...

    related strategies for teaching .

based on their understanding of personal motivation teachers can use motivational persuasion to help students recognize that school experiences (when they're well designed) can help them learn for life so they will want to adopt a problem-solving approach (to "make it better" in their life) for their own personal education .  When students are personally motivated to learn, it will be much easier for teachers & students to build educational teamwork in a classroom and a school.

Educational Ecologies (in Educational Ecosystems) occur at many levels, in large-scale systems — in a nation, state, district, school, department — and , on a smaller scale,

in a classroom with its ecosystem of interactions between each Student and other students and the Teacher , as shown simplistically in this diagram, to produce 6 kinds of formative feedback — from one person (or group ) to another — based on empathetic understandings of what others are feeling & thinking in their hearts & minds.   Each person also tries to understand, with metacognitive self-empathy, their own feeling & thinking, their own life-goals and life-strategies, for what they want (in their goals ) and how to get it (with their strategies ).   { a process of developing classroom ecology should be based on a foundation of kind attitudes and compassionate intentions to be benefically helpful}

Ideally, the shared goal when building empathy-ecology in a classroom will be improving the total school experience to produce an optimal performing-enjoying-learning overall, with “greatest good for the greatest number” but also respect for all individuals.  For each student, and the teacher(s), the shared mutual objective is to build educational teamwork that will be helpful in achieving individual goals, and group goals.  All can work together in creative collaboration to construct a classroom community with a learning-friendly atmosphere, so students can learn in the ways they want to learn and are able to learn.

I.O.U. reminder - Soon, maybe in mid-2023, these ideas (and related ideas) "will be developed more fully," including my exploration of what others are doing — in principle and in applications — with different aspects of educational ecology.

Is empathy always needed?

This section responds to a question:  Is thinking-with-empathy useful in ALL design projects?

A high quality of thinking with empathy (so your understanding is relevant, accurate, and deep) is extremely important for defining and solving most problems.   But not all problems, because empathy is not very important (or at least it's different) for problem-solving objectives in two categories, when your problem either (1) involves mainly you, or  (2) does not directly involve any people,  when...

1) ...when you want to “make life better” by achieving an objective that is mainly for your own benefit, not for other people, *  and you do most of the problem solving (or all of it) by yourself.   This focus-on-self occurs for some personal decisions and for many of your thinking strategies .  To do each of these well, you need to know yourself, with self-empathy for your own thinking & feeling .  You can use the benefits of different perspectives by supplementing your own understanding (from internal self-observation & self-empathy by yourself) with other understandings (from external observations & empathy by other people).    { perspectives - internal & external, metacognition & empathy }

* Even when a problem-solving project does not "directly involve people" (as in 2a below) or "...other people" (in 1 above), usually some people will be affected in some way, so typically we are describing an objective that requires less empathy, rather than no empathy.

2a) ...when the objective is mostly technical, so it does not directly involve people.  This can occur because a wide variety of objectives (for designing a better object, activity, or strategy in General Design) require a wide variety of empathy, with less needed for a few objectives (those in 2a) than for most objectives.   { IOU - Later, maybe in May, some of these variations-in-empathy will be examined in an appendix, as outlined in the final paragraph of this page.

2b) ...when your functional responsibility in a problem-solving process is to solve a purely technical problem, in a sub-project within the overall project.  For example, you might be asked to design a new piece of equipment (or to repair it) after the technical goal-specifications already have been clearly defined by others in a part of the design project ( Defining a Problem ) that usually requires empathy. }

2c) ...when your objective in Science-Design is an explanatory theory about NON-HUMAN aspects of nature (as in chemistry, physics, or astronomy), not about HUMAN nature (as in psychology, sociology, political science, economics, marketing,...).    { If you ask “is science-design authentic design?”, we can discuss the pros & cons of using definitions (for problem, design, design thinking,...) that are broad or narrow. }

Empathy for Collaboration:  During any design project (including 1, 2a, 2b, 2c), if you're working collaboratively it's important to have empathy for your colleagues, so you can understand ( intellectually and emotionally ) what they are thinking & feeling, to help all of you work together more effectively and enjoyably.

I.O.U. - The ideas below are in gray text because they need to be developed and revised:

In this website, the importance of empathy is emphasized (as in mc-em.htm#empathy - ws.htm#dpmo1ab - ws.htm#dpmo2aem - ws.htm#mcts ) but some other models-for-process (like d.school and DEEPdt) emphasize it more strongly, as described here .

The fact that creative thinking is necessary to imagine projects requiring "no empathy (or very little)" shows that empathy is essential (or at least is extremely useful) for understanding-and-improving almost all problem-situations. — especially for "design projects" (which include almost everything we do in life) that are worthwhile.

maybe responses will be indicated by text-highlighting the objectives where empathy is extremely important and very important and not as important.

for a problem that only you can solve, analogous to solo mountain climbing when you are “on your own” so you must do everything by yourself. 

A larger project is making a detailed appendix (maybe in May) by asking, for many objectives (across a wide range of objectives ), "How useful is thinking with empathy when you define a problem (by learning about a problem-situation, defining an objective, defining goals for a solution) and solve the problem (by designing a solution that satisfactorily achieves your goals)?"

If you want to discuss any of these ideas, you can contact me, <craigru178-att-yahoo-daut-caum> ; Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. - my life on a road less traveled

Copyright © 1978-2023 by craig rusbult.  all rights reserved., this page is designed to be in the left frame, so put it there ., options:   here are three other useful links, sitemap (in left frame )  -   home (in right frame )  - open this frame in a new full-width window (i.o.u. - until this link is available, right-click frame and choose "open frame in new window  - and useful information is in tips for using this website ..

Tamar Chansky Ph.D.

How to Empathize: Resist Being a Problem Solver

When someone comes for help, don’t hand out a to do list.

Posted April 30, 2018

Gratner/iStock, used with permission

Human beings. What are we going to do with ourselves? We are born fixers. And I mean literally, born , as in since the dawn of time. When there were cracks in those cave walls, you can be sure we were there with our primitive spackling tools to patch them right up. Well, OK, home improvement was not quite the priority on the honey-do list, what with the more immediate issues—predatory birds, lions, poisonous snakes, the occasional out of hand neighbor. The kinds of things we had to fix back in the day were life and death. And thus it was in that milieu of danger at every turn that our inner alarm system—our fight-or-flight responsiveness to threat—developed. So while we have the amygdala, the C.O.O. of the brain’s alarm system, to thank for bringing us to this day there’s a bit more she wrote. Sensitivity (reading the fine print of a situation) is not the amygdala’s strong suit. So when we find ourselves feeling threatened not by a large bird with claws, but none other than our adult daughter standing before us upset about a non-large bird issue like, maybe, just for the sake of argument…having a stressful situation at work, it’s the amygdala showing up first that instantly makes us feel like our child’s distress is a fire to put out. In those moments that call for empathy, compassion and soothing, the amygdala shouting fire! is more of the problem than the solution.

I know this well. As an anxiety therapist, I speak to patients all day about ways to override and reset the amygdala when the proverbial snake turns out to be a harmless stick. And though I try to live by what I teach, there are those moments where my blindspots are pointed out to me. Like by my daughter and the aforementioned situation at her job, right away I picked up my spackler and got to work. I jumped in with all the different ways my daughter might look at the situation, all the different things she could do to make it better. In fact, I had so much to say about her situation, I’m not sure she could get a word in edgewise. What she wanted, in her words, was empathy, period , and I handed her a to do list. Gotcha.

Whether we are talking to our children, our coworkers, our partners, even ourselves, I think my daughter hit the nail on the head. When we are upset we want empathy, period . Not the laundry list of things we need, could, or should do. Not yet, and maybe not ever. At the very least we need to pause and listen, the longer the better, before we ask if those spackling tools that our primitive instincts are tapping behind our backs are actually being requested.

marekullasz/iStock, used with permission

How do we do this? How do we tell our amygdalas to send the fire trucks back to the station? How do we turn off our revving engines running circles around an unsuspecting troubled person who has come to us for comfort, but is getting more upset by our (even with a Ph.D. in psychology) bungled response? What’s really the fire? We need to take charge of our own discomfort with someone else’s discomfort and realize our desire to solve things or to make invisible the things we can’t solve is…. drumroll please… our own problem—not the other person’s. The person who is in need of soothing was not in emergency mode until they were inundated with our to-do list for them. Not exactly what we were going for. If we as helpers can punch in the security code of our own amygdalas, do an override, take a breath, and remind ourselves that what is needed from us is not the brave slaying of dragons and such, but sometimes the braver offering of compassionate words or simply saying “yes—that sounds hard,” or “I’m sorry that’s happening,” or EVEN: “Tell me more about it” (because our to do list essentially conveys: tell me less ) we will be a different kind of hero. We are protecting ourselves and each other from our desire to fix and in so doing, will find a place where understanding ripples out and smooths the way for all of us.

And when each of us forgets about this idea, which we inevitably will given our jumpy amygdalas, let’s just agree to turn to each other and say, “Empathy, period , please!” Or… if you prefer… “Hold the spackler, please.” Namaste.

©2018 Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. www.tamarchansky.com

Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. is author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety: 4 Simple Steps to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want and Freeing Your Child from Anxiety.

Tamar Chansky Ph.D.

Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., is a psychologist dedicated to helping children, teens, and adults overcome anxiety.

  • Find a Therapist
  • Find a Treatment Center
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Support Group
  • Find Teletherapy
  • United States
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Asperger's
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Eating Disorders
  • Passive Aggression
  • Personality
  • Goal Setting
  • Positive Psychology
  • Stopping Smoking
  • Low Sexual Desire
  • Relationships
  • Child Development
  • Therapy Center NEW
  • Diagnosis Dictionary
  • Types of Therapy

November 2023 magazine cover

The people around us have a stronger influence on our decisions and actions than we realize. Here’s what research reveals about our networks’ gravitational force.

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • Affective Forecasting
  • Neuroscience


  • Industrial Cleaning
  • Office Cleaning
  • School Cleaning
  • Medical Cleaning
  • Disinfecting Services
  • Office Disinfecting
  • Restroom Disinfecting
  • Industrial Disinfecting
  • Medical Disinfecting
  • Carpet Cleaning
  • Hard Surface Floor Care
  • Window Washing
  • Pressure Washing
  • Green Cleaning Benefits

Call Building Services

  • Request a Quote

The Art of Empathetic Problem Solving


Empathetic problem solving is the ability to really understand and feel another’s perspective in a conflict or issue. Empathetic problem solving is about what you do in communication while solving a problem but also about what you don’t do .


What is deep listening? Deep listening is a way of listening where we are fully present without trying to immediately control or judge a situation. This can be hard for us leaders because we have so much responsibility and can be so accustomed to putting out fires. With deep listening, we do our best to stay in the moment and not jump ahead and define or solve the problem before we have more information. We also try to push away our preconceived notions about the situation or the people involved. For example, not letting our mind immediately go to fault finding when dealing with a problem employee. Or not assuming a customer that frequently complains is just blowing off steam. Rather we do our best to limit our assumptions and really tune in for precisely what someone is trying to tell us. Telling, on the other hand, is when we jump in and try to tell someone what happened before getting his or her perspective. When this happens, people tend to shut down and be resistant to solutions, even very good ones, because they don’t feel they were really heard.

Questioning is about asking questions to understand what happened so that you can arrive at a workable solution. The other side of the coin is blame. Blame is about figuring out ‘who did it.’ Your questions should be as neutral and judgment free as possible. For example, it is better to ask, “What happened between you and Bob?” than “Why were you shouting at Bob?” This kind of neutral questioning can get the information rather than shutting someone down because they feel your judgment. Real questioning should be about revealing obstacles and uncovering alternate paths ahead. Again, this can be challenging because quite often we probably know what happened and we can bring our own feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment to these conflicts.  

With enhanced perspective, the most effective leaders are able to help an individual embrace a more open perspective of the situation or conflict they are imbued in. Enhancing perspective is akin to ‘see it how I see it’ but more subtle and done together rather than delivered straightaway. When you enhance someone’s perspective, you reframe the issue pointing out other perspectives and possibilities. You light the path and then allow someone to walk down it.

Inspiring someone to make the choice you want is always better than an autocratic power play. Whether its employees or children, gaining their agreement on what you want them to do always works better than making demands from up on high. While it may work with Nike, ‘Just Do It’ rarely works for long with people. Maybe they do something they don’t want to do because they want to please you. Perhaps in seeing your fairness and lack of blame placing, they are inspired to be more conciliatory with a difficult colleague. 

Even though this kind of engaged problem solving really requires stamina and mindfulness from a leader, it also can gain us the respect and trust our people. They see how we work to be fair, really listen, value problem solving over blame placing. And when issues arise, and they will, they will trust us, come to us and try to work through an issue rather than resort to a CYA or worse.

Tags: Learn Everyday

Subscribe to Email Updates

Popular topics.

  • Commercial Cleaning (242)
  • Industry Best Practices (160)
  • Janitorial Services (157)
  • Office Cleaning (100)
  • Customer Focus (85)
  • Cost Saving - Pricing (83)
  • Hospital & Medical Cleaning (67)
  • Building Maintenance (59)
  • Healthy Work Environment (56)
  • Janitorial Pricing (53)
  • Restroom Cleaning (48)
  • Made In Michigan (47)
  • Green Cleaning (43)
  • CIMS-GB Certification (41)
  • School Cleaning (38)
  • Disinfecting Services (35)
  • Cleaning Industry Updates (29)
  • Day Porters (27)
  • Industrial Cleaning (27)
  • Outsourcing (22)
  • Commercial Handyman Services (20)
  • Floor Care (20)
  • Culture (12)
  • Leadership (5)
  • Learn Everyday (5)
  • Painting Services (4)
  • disinfection services (3)

Learn Everyday

Leave a Reply


Headquarters 24701 Halsted Road Farmington Hills, MI United States 48335 (248) 871-1200 Farmington Hills Cleaning Services

Downriver Office 20070 Trentwood Ct. Trenton, MI United States 48183 (734) 479-4000 Downriver Cleaning Services

  • Terms and Conditions
  • Request A Quote

Subscribe to us to get the latest updates on professional cleaning.


© 2023 Stathakis. All Rights Reserved.

how does empathy help with problem solving

how does empathy help with problem solving

How does empathy influence creativity?

Getting people to feel, not just think, is essential to design work. Luckily, we’ve got empathy on our side.

Are you feeling what we’re feeling? Chances are yes—at least in part. Scientific research from a wide range of fields has helped us learn a ton about how empathy works, like where it happens in the brain and how to cultivate it. Taking others’ perspectives and caring about their needs can pave the way to creativity and boost problem-solving. Intriguingly, there’s recent evidence showing that, for some artists and scientists, not all creativity is linked to empathy.

Commentary from the d.school

A scholar’s perspective

Empathy begins with attention. Creativity does too. In both cases, you pay attention to the data you take in. In Latin, attention means to “stretch toward.” When you empathize with someone, you're stretching outside of yourself and stretching into that person's world. This empathy then links to problem-solving because you must first decide not only what the problem is, but who has the problem.

In philosophy, the most important thing you can do is frame the problem well—the same is true in design. If you don't frame the problem well, you'll never get the solution right. But defining the problem is some of the hardest work. In design, you empathize before you define. It is critical because creativity is about trying on different concepts in order to solve a particular challenge or problem. There is value in getting different conceptions of ideas on the table, then you can see if everyone is looking at the same ideas in the same way. That leaves room to discover that the value actually might lie in how we overlay these individual systems of thought. That’s where good problem framing begins.

Chris Adkins, Associate Teaching Professor in the Management & Organization Department and the Executive Director of the Notre Dame Deloitte Center of Ethical Leadership

Reading List

The functional architecture of human empathy.

Jackson Decety in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews , 2004

Your brain reserves a special place for empathy

This paper helped us understand how empathy works by pointing to the different places empathy lives and helps unpack its parts: self-awareness, “mental flexibility," and “emotional regulation”—each of which we can map to specific processes in the brain.

The Neuroscience of Empathy: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise

Jamil Zaki & Kevin Ochsner in Nature America , 2012

Empathy beyond the brain: a motivation to take action

This paper explains two takes on empathy. First, sharing the emotions of another person and second, reasoning through what another person might think. The review explores an emerging area of research on a “desire to help” called prosocial motivation. When it comes to design, we can consider how to activate these methods of empathy through how we plan research activities and share our findings.

The Necessity of Others is the Mother of Invention: Intrinsic and Prosocial Motivations, Perspective Taking, and Creativity

Adam Grant and James Berry in Academy of Management Journal , 2011

Thinking about others helps you generate—and choose—better ideas

Researchers wondered how considering others might aid in creativity. Experiments with employees linked innovation to a focus on others’ needs, facilitated by what's called “perspective taking," a deliberate effort to understand what others need. By considering a wide range of people, such as colleagues, managers, and customers, the employees could develop more novel ideas and choose the better ones. A bonus: prosocial motivation, the desire to help, guides us to think of new ideas and pulls us through to persist in creative tasks!

Imitation, Empathy, and Mirror Neurons

Marco Iacoboni in Annual Review of Psychology , 2009

Imitation may be the sincerest form of empathy: how our brains mirror others

When we watch someone in action, motor neurons in our brain activate in response. This phenomenon is called “neural mirroring.” Findings in social psychology studies have shown that imitation can create a pathway for empathy. This paper explains how imitation helps us “access and understand the minds of others.”

Empathy-Building Interventions: A Review of Existing Work and Suggestions for Future Directions

Erika Weisz and Jamil Zaki in Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science , 2017

Empathizing: still a work in progress

This review gathers ways to boost empathy, through “empathy interventions.” The article shares a rich list of experience-based techniques, such as imagining the lives of others, meditation-based compassion, and role playing in new situations (e.g., medical students experiencing a campus in a wheelchair). There’s also communication-based empathy: using conversation to better connect. The authors suggest there’s room for a new approach: teaching people how to want to empathize.

More Is not Always Better: The Differentiated Influence of Empathy on Different Magnitudes of Creativity

Sven Form and Christian Kaernbacha in Europe’s Journal of Psychology , 2018

How empathy influences creativity: deciding when empathy might matter

Researchers are exploring empathy’s influence on creativity. This review shares results from studies, painting a picture of an emerging set of evidence with varied results. Findings to date suggest that empathic behaviors or mindsets link to everyday creativity.

Keep Browsing

How do designers “think” with “things?"

Where do new ideas come from?

Why do building, sharing, and testing a work in progress help you get to a good solution?

Who produces better ideas: individuals or teams?

When should you move quickly and when should you pause to reflect?

When building a diverse team, how can you set them up for success?

How do you teach someone synthesis?

What are simple ways to meaningfully boost creativity?

Submit a Resource

Periodically, we’ll add more questions and articles to this site. Please share questions that have been vexing you, articles you think we’ve missed, or just feedback you’d like us to hear.

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Childhood ADHD
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Panic Attack
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Sex Addiction
  • Social Anxiety
  • Specific Phobias
  • Teenage Depression
  • Black Mental Health
  • Emotional Health
  • Sex & Relationships
  • Understanding Therapy
  • Workplace Mental Health
  • My Life with OCD
  • Caregivers Chronicles
  • Empathy at Work
  • Sex, Love & All of the Above
  • Parent Central
  • Mindful Moment
  • Mental Health News
  • Live Town Hall: Mental Health in Focus
  • Inside Mental Health
  • Inside Schizophrenia
  • Inside Bipolar
  • ADHD Symptoms Quiz
  • Anxiety Symptoms Quiz
  • Autism Quiz: Family & Friends
  • Autism Symptoms Quiz
  • Bipolar Disorder Quiz
  • Borderline Personality Test
  • Childhood ADHD Quiz
  • Depression Symptoms Quiz
  • Eating Disorder Quiz
  • Narcissim Symptoms Test
  • OCD Symptoms Quiz
  • Psychopathy Test
  • PTSD Symptoms Quiz
  • Schizophrenia Quiz
  • Attachment Style Quiz
  • Career Test
  • Do I Need Therapy Quiz?
  • Domestic Violence Screening Quiz
  • Emotional Type Quiz
  • Loneliness Quiz
  • Parenting Style Quiz
  • Personality Test
  • Relationship Quiz
  • Stress Test
  • What's Your Sleep Like?
  • Find Support
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Drugs & Medications
  • Find a Therapist

Is It Possible to Lack Empathy?

how does empathy help with problem solving

Empathy is a fundamental part of building meaningful social connections. For some people, though, developing it may be a challenge.

Young man showing empathy for a friend

Understanding another person’s feelings and experiences, even if opposite to ours, may allow us to respond in a supportive way and regulate our own emotions.

What happens when you don’t feel it? Is it possible to lack empathy altogether? And if so, is this a sign of a mental health condition? There are many possible answers to these questions, even though this is still an evolving area of research.

Understanding what empathy is matters

In general, empathy is the ability to understand or sense another person’s perspective, feelings, needs, or intentions, even when you don’t share the same circumstances. It can sometimes involve acting on that understanding, including offering help.

But empathy doesn’t always lead to action. It may depend on the type of empathy you’ve developed.

Types of empathy

According to psychologists and researchers Paul Ekman and Daniel Goleman , there are three main types of empathy:

1. Cognitive empathy

This type of empathy is an intellectual understanding of someone else’s feelings. It’s the ability to consider other perspectives without sensing or experiencing them yourself.

For example, if a colleague loses their job, you may recognize what emotions they could be feeling. You could also understand how their emotions might affect their behavior. This doesn’t mean you experience distress yourself.

2. Affective or ‘emotional’ empathy

People who have emotional empathy tend to feel another person’s emotions. Although not always the case, this may also include physical sensations consistent with such emotion.

For example, if you see someone under great distress after losing a loved one, you feel sad yourself and could experience chest or stomach pain while sensing that emotion in the other person.

3. Compassionate empathy or ‘empathetic concern’

Compassionate empathy is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy. You recognize and understand another person’s emotions and also feel them.

Taking on another person’s challenges and hurt may end up taking a toll on you. This is why some people may not develop this type of empathy.

However, relating to other people’s suffering may also lead you to consider helping. And research suggests that when you do help, your body produces more dopamine — a “feel-good” hormone. This then leads and motivates you to continue acting on your cognitive and emotional empathy.

Examples of compassionate empathy include stopping your car to help if you see someone fall or donating to a cause after a natural disaster.

Can you have one type of empathy only?

Not everyone develops compassionate empathy, and there are also different levels of emotional or cognitive empathy.

For example, you could feel sad that your partner is experiencing a challenge (emotional empathy). It hurts you to see them hurt.

Yet, you may not really understand why they feel this way. Or you may even feel that their reason for feeling sad isn’t serious enough to warrant these emotions. You may have difficulty seeing the situation from their perspective (cognitive empathy).

Because of this, you may not experience compassionate empathy.

Lack of empathy: Is it possible?

Empathy exists on a spectrum, and in most cases, it isn’t entirely absent — it’s just diminished.

Because empathy is an ability, most people can develop it. Having low empathy doesn’t mean you’ll feel this way forever.

In some cases, due to illness or trauma, some people may have extremely low empathy and a diminished capacity to develop it. However, they still have the capacity.

6 Signs of low empathy

Because everyone is different, and empathy is a spectrum, low empathy or lack of empathy can be challenging to spot.

In general, some of the signs someone may lack empathy include:

1. Being critical and judgmental

People who have low empathy may excessively criticize other people for experiencing or expressing emotions in certain scenarios.

Someone with a lack of empathy may also blame the person for what they’re experiencing. For example, they may say things like, “If you didn’t do those things, you wouldn’t be in trouble now.”

Someone who isn’t empathetic may also label people or behaviors without considering the context. For example, they may criticize a colleague for being late, without realizing or appreciating that they have a sick child at home.

2. Thinking it wouldn’t happen to them

Someone with low empathy may have trouble connecting to other people’s circumstances.

They may believe that a certain event would never happen to them, or that they could handle the situation “much better.” Because they feel this is the case, they won’t be able to understand or feel the other person’s distress.

3. Calling other people ‘too sensitive’

Because they have difficulty understanding another person’s perspective and sensing their emotions, a person that lacks empathy will sometimes think emotional reactions are not valid, or they may act in dismissive ways.

They may think people’s feelings are optional or come from what they may perceive as an emotional deficit. “You’re feeling that way because you want to or because you’re too sensitive, not because it’s really that bad.”

4. Responding in inappropriate ways

Someone with low empathy may joke about someone’s emotions or circumstances. They may also have a difficult time actively listen to you. They could also act chirpy or indifferent after you just expressed feeling sad or stressed.

Someone who is empathetic might try to cheer you up if they see you down. But someone who isn’t may ignore how you feel altogether.

5. Having trouble understanding how their behavior affects others

Often, low empathy may result in a person not realizing that their actions can affect others. Other times, they may understand that their behavior impacts other people, but they may not feel remorseful about it.

This means that someone may act in selfish or vindictive ways without realizing or caring if that hurts you.

6. Difficulty maintaining relationships

Low empathy may lead to constant friction in relationships or a lack of meaningful bonds.

When someone has a difficult time understanding other people’s feelings or acting in helpful ways, they may end up with few or no meaningful connections. Sometimes, they’re not even aware this is happening.

Causes of low empathy

Everyone may experience low empathy at times. For example, it may be natural to have difficulty feeling and expressing empathy toward someone who has harmed us.

There is some debate on whether a person is born with low empathy or if upbringing, social factors, or life experiences may hinder their ability to develop it, or even limit it. Genetics may also play a role.

Other possible factors associated with low empathy include:

Personality and developmental disorders

  • narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
  • Machiavellianism
  • sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder
  • borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • alexithymia

Among these conditions, levels of empathy can vary. Among individuals, levels can vary even more so.

For example, research suggests that some people with BPD may have difficulty developing emotional empathy but may display cognitive empathy.

Machiavellianism (a personality trait) and NPD (a mental health condition) have long been associated with a lack of empathy. However, one study suggests that people with these traits and disorders actually have a certain degree of empathy — they just may lack the motivation to show or act on it.

Additionally, autistic people can sometimes have difficulties with cognitive empathy. However, they may develop emotional empathy but face challenges with expressing it. A 2018 study suggests that possible low empathy among autistic people is not related directly to the causes of autism but rather to the co-occurrence of alexithymia .

Because empathy is partly a learned behavior, you may not be as empathetic if you didn’t experience much empathy while growing up.

Also, if you were alone much of the time, you may not have had the opportunity to practice empathy. This, too, can lead to a reduction of empathetic expression.

Low emotional intelligence, burnout, and stress

Emotional intelligence may be linked to empathy. If you haven’t developed this type of intelligence, you may also have low empathy.

Being under prolonged stress may also lead someone to be less tolerant of other people’s behavior and have lower cognitive empathy.

In some cases, emotional avoidance may also be a reason why someone may not develop or practice empathy. If someone is emotionally burned out, they may avoid all additional sources of distress, including relating to someone else’s difficulties.

In general, research also shows that some people may not develop compassionate empathy because of its perceived costs, like mental effort, time, and emotional weight.

Practical tips for developing empathy

Empathy can be developed. Here are a few tips for working on it:

Building cognitive empathy

Consider asking questions whenever you feel you don’t understand what the other person feels:

  • “How do you feel about this?”
  • “What were you hoping for?”
  • “Is there anything else going on in your life you may want to talk about?”

You could also work on being more observant of body language. You may be able to tap into someone else’s emotions if you notice a change in their expressions. This may also include focusing on nonverbal cues like tone of voice and change in habits.

Learning more about what’s important to those around you may also help you notice when their mood changes, even if you don’t feel the same way they do.

For example, if you know this person cares a lot about their pet — even if you don’t like animals — you may understand why the loss of their companion is devastating to them.

Increasing emotional empathy

Working on recognizing your own emotions may help you connect with other people. Not everyone will recognize how they feel at all times or why they act in a certain way.

For example, you may act irritable and impatient today without realizing it’s because you’ve been sad about an argument you had yesterday.

Learning to connect your emotions with your actions may help you connect with other people’s emotions, too.

You could also practice listening more attentively and resisting the desire to tell the other person about your personal experience when they’re talking about themselves.

When you do, consider focusing on how they feel and why they may be feeling this way.

Enhancing compassionate empathy

As you develop both cognitive and emotional empathy, you’ll be more likely to have compassionate empathy and step into action when you see someone having a difficult time.

Let’s recap

There are many types and levels of empathy. How much empathy you have depends on many factors, and may vary according to the situation.

Empathy may help you exhibit more helping behaviors and could also improve your relationships.

If you feel you could be more empathetic, you’ve taken the first step. Empathy is something you can develop, and it starts with awareness.

If you feel you’re having a challenging time developing empathy, you may want to seek the support of a mental health professional who can work with you in practicing a few techniques that may help.

Last medically reviewed on July 21, 2021

6 sources collapsed

  • Cameron CD, et al. (2019). Empathy is hard work: People choose to avoid empathy because of its cognitive costs. https://doi.apa.org/record/2019-20830-001?doi=1
  • Kajonius PJ, et al. (2020). Individuals with dark traits have the ability but not the disposition to empathize. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886919306567
  • Kinnaird E, et al. (2018). Investigating alexithymia in autism: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30399531/
  • Niedtfeld I. (2017). Experimental investigation of cognitive and affective empathy in borderline personality disorder: Effects of ambiguity in multimodal social information processing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28351003/
  • Warrier V, et al. (2018). Genome-wide analyses of self-reported empathy: correlations with autism, schizophrenia, and anorexia nervosa. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-017-0082-6
  • Weng HY, et al. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797612469537

Read this next

Loving someone who hurts you can be confusing. Though everyone is different, there are a few reasons why you may still love an abusive partner.

Childhood experiences may lay the groundwork for how we experience adult relationships and how we bond with people. Here's how trauma may impact you…

You might have heard about the nine narcissistic traits that define narcissism. But did you know that narcissism is a spectrum, and you might be in it…

Grandiosity might be a personality trait that shows up in some situations. But in some cases, it is a symptom of a mental health condition.

The tragic and racially motivated shooting in Buffalo on May 14 reminds us that taking time for self-care is crucial to our mental health and…

BEAM partnered with Healthline Media and Peake Wellness to offer a grant that focuses on meeting the maternal health needs of Black people in…

Podcast: Do Medical Professionals Know Best When It Comes to Bipolar Disorder?

Most people experience eating a midnight snack now and then. But if eating at night becomes excessive or negatively impacts your sleep and life, it…

EITC The Emotional Intelligence Training Company, Inc. Know. Engage. Lead.

Problem solving is the enemy of empathy

It’s actually very common, even “normal”, in human conversations to jump to solutions. But this is the enemy of authentic human exchanges.

Water colour graphic representation of microbial cells in red and blue and green and yellow and orange.

Listening is hard work. And listening to someone’s pain is even harder.

Humans are good at avoiding pain. And we have a variety of defence reactions designed to block the experience of having pain. And that includes the pain caused by proximity to someone else’s pain.

This poses a problem for empathy . Empathy connects us to others’ pain. Problem solving is one of the most common blocks, and it can be hard to notice because most of the time problem solving is a pro social behaviour. Problem solving is an emotional intelligence skill.

how does empathy help with problem solving

In coaching we resist the impulse to offer solutions to the challenges our clients talk about. This is no small feat actually. It takes practice and more practice.

It’s actually very common, even “normal”, in human conversations to jump to solutions. But this is the enemy of authentic human exchanges. So stop it. Seriously, stop it.

Our desire to problem solve might come from empathy , but it doesn’t express empathy . We struggle to see someone we love and care about in pain. It hurts us. That hurt flows from empathy.

And it’s uncomfortable. So we try to put it in the closet. Our brain reacts impulsively: go away pain .

“Sooo… you just want me to listen to your story of heartbreak and control my impulse to mucky muck and look smart and fix things?”

But in order to express empathy, we need to do something else. And this something else takes practice. It’s a little like walking into fire. It takes training. You have to overcome your fear of discomfort.

Even after coaching for as long as I have, it’s extraordinary how often the impulse to problem solve comes up. It’s ongoing. And I have to continue to cultivate my awareness and my capacity to resist the gravitational force of trying to fix people’s challenges.

When I offer a solution, it immediately makes me feel better. But when someone else offers a solution to me, I often feel like they’re shutting down the conversation. Problem solving is a an exit. Problem solving can act as a signal to the person exploring a situation, that the exploration is (or should be) over. And in some cases this invitation to exit is not an invitation. It’s a tacit judgement of someone’s interest in exploring the terrain of their experience.

Solutions we offer are rarely as good as what someone comes up with themselves. This is because folks know the nuance and subtleties of their context. Or they want to know it. This is why in coaching we cultivate the practice of asking questions. We try to create a space within which people can explore the terrain of their contexts and emotions and when they’re ready they can construct their own map and path.

Even in the instance that a coach, or mentor, or friend, does know better than a colleague, this doesn’t necessarily predicate problem solving. Doing so prematurely can rob them of the chance to explore and articulate their experience and effectively journey through a map of their own creation.

In many contexts, especially in our work lives, problem solving is what’s called for. This is why it’s so important to avoid doing it in the situations where problem solving is best set aside.

Emotional Quotient certification, EQ-i 2.0 / EQ 360 from MHS, delivered by EITC.

Get EQ-i 2.0 / EQ 360 Certified Online

Emotional intelligence competencies are critical skills that are highly correlated with performance and wellbeing. Get certified to assess and develop emotional intelligence.


Rebecca Cory is an EQ coach. She has an MA in Adult Education from the University of Victoria. In addition to her work as an EQ coach with EITC, she is the Program Coordinator for University 101, a UVic initiative to make knowledge more accessible. She has worked in community engagement, facilitation, and curriculum development for over fifteen years.

A team of dancers in the middle of their choreography with a single dancer flying out of the mass of bodies.

Fully formed and fully functioning is a fiction

One paper airplane veers off in a different direction, but still connected.

Grappling with connectedness and the mythology of independence

Illustration of a woman looking into a mirror and seeing something slightly different in the mirror.

Elevating your self-regard

Tiny dinosaurs surround a speech balloon with a big white ball of confusion and stress.

Top ten mistakes that leaders make

Long Beach at Tofino: a wide expanse of beach and ocean with footprints going towards the water

Finding focus in the midst of complexity

Sixteen days against gender violence: Status of Women Canada

Emotional Intelligence and Gender Based Violence

A woman sits on a coach holding a game console and wearing a 3D virtual reality headset.

How to bring more emotional intelligence to social media and virtual communities

An early career coach sits at their desk doing an online EQ-i 2.0 Certification.

Join us and hone your emotional intelligence and leadership skills

Leave a reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

EQ-i 2.0 Online Certification

  • About emotional intelligence
  • What is emotional intelligence?
  • Some of our clients
  • Recommendations


How does writing a function rule as an equation help you solve problems with more than one situation or parameter?


📚 Related Questions

  • Three friends are selling items at a bake sale. May make $23.25 seeking bread. Inez sells gift baskets and makes 100 times as much as May. Carolyn self pies and make one tenth of the money Inez makes. How much money does each friend make.

Inez makes $2325 and Carolyn makes $ 232.5

What is Unitary Method?

The unitary technique involves first determining the value of a single unit, followed by the value of the necessary number of units.

For example , Let's say Ram spends 36 Rs. for a dozen (12) bananas.

12 bananas will set you back 36 Rs. 1 banana costs 36 x 12 = 3 Rupees.

As a result, one banana costs three rupees. Let's say we need to calculate the price of 15 bananas.

This may be done as follows: 15 bananas cost 3 rupees each; 15 units cost 45 rupees.

May make $23.25 seeking bread.

Inez sells gift baskets and makes 100 times as much as May.

Carolyn self pies and make one tenth of the money Inez makes.

So, Inez makes = 100 times as much as May

                         = 23.25 x  100

                          =$ 2325

and, Carolyn makes = 1/10 of the money Inez makes

                                  = 2325 x 1/10

                                  = 2325 / 10

                                  = $232.5

Hence, Inez makes $2325 and Carolyn makes $ 232.5

Learn more about unitary method here:


Use the figure below to complete the following problem. Given: H = 2x + 60 T = x + 30 HALT is a ∠A = 30 45 60

I did the assignment, trust me.

  • 50% of cakes baked are party cakes - 1/5 were fruit cakes and remainder were sponge cakes. What percentage of cakes were sponge cakes?

tentukan himpunan penyelesaian dari persamaan berikut: 3y+15=5y-1

Details : tentukan himpunan penyelesaian dari persamaan berikut:3y+15=5y-1

a lounge is sold making a 15% profit on the cost price. If the lounge was sold for $1495 , what is the wholesale price?

Six pairs of socks cost as much as 1 coat, 2 pairs of jeans cost as much as 3 pairs of shoes, and 4 pairs of socks cost as much as one pair of jeans. How many coats could i exchange for 64 pairs of socks. Options: A:4 B:1 C:2 D:3 E: None of these I do not know how to work this question out. Please Help me

which is greater 2/3 or 2/6

Which is greater 1/8 or 1/3

Details : Which is greater 1/8 or 1/3

Whats x squared minus 4x minus 45

A wheelchair ramp is to be built from the ground to the door sill along side a building. The cross section of the ramp is a right triangle with a base that is 12 inches more than the three times the height of the door sill from the ground and a hypotenuse that is 35 inches more than twice the height. Use the Pythagorean theorem to write a quadratic equation. (Find the height base and hypotenuse of the ramp. (Round off to the nearest 100th of an inch.

the price of n tickets to a play is 9n+ 6 dollars. What is the cost in dollars for 8 tickets to the play

How many radians are in 300 degrees?

Details : How many radians are in 300 degrees?

A family has 8 girls and 4 boys. A total of 2 children must be chosen to speak on the behalf of the family at a local benefit. What is the probability that 1 girl and 1 boy will be chosen? A. 2/11 B. 1/6 C. 2/33 D. 16/33

Help with writing equations. The pictures below have the questions I need help with.

The lengths of the parallel sides of a trapezoid are represented by a and b and it's height by h. The area of the trapezoid can be written as 1/2 ah+1/2 bh. Express this area as the product of two factors.

The area of the trapezoid as the product of two factors is  [tex]\frac{1}{2} h(a+b)[/tex]  .


What is trapezoid?

A trapezoid is a four-sided closed 2D shape that has an area and a perimeter. It is also called a Trapezium. The sides of a trapezoid are parallel to each other and they are termed as the bases of the trapezoid . The non-parallel sides are known as the legs or lateral sides of a trapezoid .  

Area of trapezoid :

A = ½ (a + b) h

where (A) is the area of a trapezoid , 'a' and 'b' are the bases (parallel sides), and 'h' is the height (the perpendicular distance between a and b)

According to the question

The lengths of first parallel side of a trapezoid =  a

The lengths of second parallel side of a trapezoid =  b

The height of a trapezoid = h

and Area of the trapezoid = [tex]\frac{1}{2} ah+\frac{1}{2} bh[/tex]  

Taking common

 Area of the trapezoid =  [tex]\frac{1}{2} h(a+b)[/tex]  

Hence, the area of the trapezoid as the product of two factors is  [tex]\frac{1}{2} h(a+b)[/tex]  .


To know more about trapezoid here:


Mike started a savings account by depositing $9. Each month he deposits more money than the month before. At the end of 41 months, he has saved $9,389.00. How much more does he deposit each month

$11.00 or 11

same thing :)

*plug all other answer choices inside formula as d to check your answer*

Step-by-step explanation:

we need to use the arithmetic sequence formula

[tex]S_n=\frac{n}{2} [2a_1+(n-1)d]\\[/tex]

[tex]a_1=9\\n=41\\d=11 \\\\S_4_1=\frac{41}{2}[ (2)(4)+(41-1)(11)] \\\\S_4_1=\frac{41}{2} [8+(40)(11)]\\\\\S_4_1=\frac{41}{2} (18+440)\\\\S_4_1=\frac{41}{2} (458)\\\\S_4_1=20.5 (458)\\\\S_4_1=9,389[/tex]

He deposit 11 each month is right because the sum of the series ([tex]S_n[/tex])  is 9,389 and he saved 9,389 at the end of the 41 months.

Details : Mike started a savings account by depositing $9. Each month he deposits

how to write 6/20 in the simplest form

Dave delivered 52 newspapers all together on Saturday and Sunday. He delivered 8 more newspapers on Sunday than on Saturday. How many newspapers did Dave deliver on Sunday? Please show work.

what is the exact volume of the cone Height of 10 cm and a radius of 4 cm

Help ? Plz forgot the steps (3z+9)(z-4)

Details : Help ? Plz forgot the steps (3z+9)(z-4)

What is .0449 rounded to the nearest hundredth?

if 4x+3=9x-4 then x =

What is the approximate volume of the cone Height is 6 cm and the radius is 9 cm

Volume =  508.94 cm3

V = π r^2 h /3

V = [tex]\pi[/tex] [tex]r^{2}[/tex]  [tex]\frac{h}{3}[/tex]

r Radius = 9 cm

h Height = 6 cm

[tex]\pi[/tex] = 3.14

The length of a rectangle is represented by 2l+2w. Express the perimeter as the product of two factors.

Details : The length of a rectangle is represented by 2l+2w. Express the perimeter


Add use model if need (4x+5) + (15x-3

It is asking for me to factor this equation (x-2)(x-2)+6(x-2)+9 this is the final answer (x-1)(x-1) how did this answer come to be?

Write a fraction that is a multiple of 4/5.

Details : Write a fraction that is a multiple of 4/5.

Four time the sum of five and ten is what

A family went to a baseball game. They parked the car in a parking lot which charged $15. The cost per ticket was $21. Write an equation for the total cost of going to the baseball game, where y is the total cost and x is the total number of people. If the family spent $99, how many people went to the game

Other Questions

  • What Was The Role Of The Roman Catholic Church During The Middle Ages?
  • One that exercises supreme authority within a land is considered ____________.
  • In the formation of a macromolecule, what type of reaction would join two subunits together?A.hydrophobic reactionB.hydrolysis reactionC.dehydration reactionD.denaturation reaction
  • ____________ is an example of an invasion that took place that changed national boundaries.
  • In a water treatment plant, water passes through a cone-shaped filter with a height of 4 m and a diameter of 9 m. The water flows from the filter into a cylinder below it. One full cone-shaped filter fills one-fifth of the cylinder.What are the dimensions of the cylinder? Use 3.14 to approximate pi. A.h = 3 m; r = 3 m B.h = 4.23 m; r = 5 m C.h = 15 m; r = 6 m D.h = 33.75 m; r = 2 m
  • Which number is between 0.6 7/9A.23/27B.31/45C.14/27D.1/3
  • Use the figure below to complete the following problem.Given: H = 2x + 60 T = x + 30HALT is a A =304560
  • John stretched while his muscles were cold. Which negative effect could occur? a.Blood might not flow to his limbs. b.His strength could decrease quickly. c.He could injure or pull a muscle. d.Oxygen might not reach his muscles..
  • Write a real world situation that could be modeled be the equation 120 + 25x =45x
  • What is 2/3 x 1/2 x 3/4
  • Why were American colonists upset with English rule in the 1760s? A. England didn't allow them to have their own tea parties. B. King George refused to appoint royal governors to the colonies. C. They didnt want to be British anymore. D. Parliament passed new taxes on the colonies, while there still was no representation for the colonists in the English government.
  • A company manufactured 1,000 televisions. Testing showed that 20 televisions were defective.What is the experimental probability that the next television will be defective?
  • In the formation of a macromolecule, what type of bond would join two amino acid subunits? A) ionic bond B) phosphodiester bond C) hydrogen bond D) peptide bond
  • Which of the following occurred first in history? A. Boston Massacre B. Boston Tea Party C. Coercive Acts D. First Continental Congress
  • how does moon shadow fit into the demon culture
  • Which statement best describes the U.S. Constitution? A. It is a document designed to set up a new U.S. government, written with Enlightenment ideology, including Montesquieus 3 branches and separation of power. B. It is a document, shared by the U.S. and France, also known as the Declaration of the Rights of Man. C. It is a failed document created directly after the revolution that created a loose binding of friendship between the states. D. It is a series of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft describing the Old Ones.
  • tentukan himpunan penyelesaian dari persamaan berikut:3y+15=5y-1
  • In proteins, elements of secondary structure combine to form a(n) A) domain B) motif C) alpha helix D) beta sheet E) chaperone


  1. Observation, Empathy & Problem Solving Activity

    how does empathy help with problem solving

  2. What is Empathy

    how does empathy help with problem solving

  3. The role of empathy in problem solving by Dean Berry

    how does empathy help with problem solving

  4. The role of empathy in problem solving by Dean Berry

    how does empathy help with problem solving

  5. The role of empathy in problem solving by Dean Berry

    how does empathy help with problem solving

  6. How Does the Brain Feel Empathy?

    how does empathy help with problem solving


  1. Personal Problems🏁🖤🤍 #empath

  2. Empathy and knowing the problem you're solving are core to design (and making something people want)

  3. The Way We Think About Empathy Is a Problem; Religion, Human Nature And Moral Nihilism

  4. Developing Real Empathy: Unlocking Different Types of Empathy

  5. The Path to Empathy: Understanding Others' Actions Through Their Perspective #motivational

  6. Developing Empathy for Better Connections #shorts


  1. Empathy for Problem Solving: How to Understand Others

    How can you use empathy to understand others when solving problems? Learn from the community's knowledge. Experts are adding insights into this AI-powered collaborative article, and you could...

  2. Empathy Is the Key to Conflict Resolution or Management

    The primary purpose is to enlarge ideas, not to diminish them. It's not about winning acceptance of a viewpoint, but exploring every option and agreeing to do what is right. THE BASICS The...

  3. Empathy and Problem Solving: How Teaching the Power of Thoughtful

    Empathy can be a fundamental force in problem solving because, once employed, it enables individuals to better see and at least appreciate all sides of an issue.

  4. How Empathy Improves Problem-Solving Communication

    Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It can help you communicate better, build trust, and collaborate effectively with your team. But how can you use empathy...

  5. How Empathy Boosts Your Creativity and Problem-Solving

    1 The link between empathy and creativity 2 The link between empathy and problem-solving 3 How to develop empathy 4 How to use empathy for creativity and problem-solving 5 The...

  6. Empathy: A Key Skill for Creative Problem-Solving

    Why is empathy important for problem-solving? Empathy can help you solve problems creatively in several ways. First, empathy can help you define the problem more accurately and...

  7. Empathy and Problem Solving: How Teaching the Power of ...

    Empathy can be a fundamental force in problem solving because, once employed, it enables individuals to better see and at least appreciate all sides of an issue.

  8. Empathy: Definition, Types, and Tips for Practicing

    Kendra Cherry, MSEd Updated on February 22, 2023 Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Verywell / Bailey Mariner Table of Contents View All Signs Types Uses Pitfalls Impact Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.

  9. Cultivating empathy

    For example, research by C. Daniel Batson, PhD, a professor emeritus of social psychology at the University of Kansas, suggests empathy can motivate people to help someone else in need ( Altruism in Humans, Oxford University Press, 2011), and a 2019 study suggests empathy levels predict charitable donation behavior (Smith, K. E., et al.,

  10. Teaching with empathy: Why it's important

    In other words, empathy is about finding a way to connect and to be able to say, "I want to understand how this feels to you and let you know that you're not alone.". Empathy is a powerful tool that can help you better understand what's driving your students' behavior and find strategies to help. It can also help you connect and work ...

  11. Design thinking: problem-solving rooted in empathy

    Design thinking is a creative problem-solving process that's rooted in empathy. By leveraging creativity, individuals can ultimately design and achieve novel solutions to complex problems and compete in today's dynamic market. "It's a process to help create solutions that will actually meet the needs, desires, and constraints of its end ...

  12. Emotional Intelligence and Empathy for Problem-Solving

    Empathy is a key component of social awareness, and it can help you to solve problems more effectively by understanding the needs, perspectives, and emotions of the people involved....

  13. Empathy: How to Feel and Respond to the Emotions of Others

    Communication Empathy: How to Feel and Respond to the Emotions of Others Empathy helps you see things from another person's perspective, sympathize with their emotions, and build stronger relationships—at work, school, and in your personal life. Here's how to become more empathetic. Copy Link Download PDF What is empathy?

  14. How to Build Empathy and Strengthen Your School Community

    Find opportunities to incorporate their feedback and respond to their needs. 2. Teach what empathy is and why it matters. Clearly explain that empathy means understanding and caring about another person's feelings and taking action to help. Explain how it improves the classroom and school community.

  15. The Role of Empathy in Environmental Protection

    Stories of Life Change The Role of Empathy in Environmental Protection August 20, 2019 All, Environmental Restoration, Meditations, Our Response Terence Lester says that "to really understand something, we often need to experience it for ourselves or at least hear the story of someone who has experienced it."

  16. Empathy in Problem Solving

    Empathy in Problem Solving - to improve Solutions & Relationships Empathy in Problem Solving , for Projects and Relationships Understanding other people, by thinking with empathy, is almost always essential for skillful design thinking, for solving problems.

  17. Problem Solving Skills & Steps

    Empathy creates a connection that is the core of any truly resolved problem. Problem Solving is a skill needed in all the roles we play in life. It could be in our personal and marital relationships, as parents of young children or children of aged parents, and even in our workspaces.

  18. How to Empathize: Resist Being a Problem Solver

    What she wanted, in her words, was empathy, period, and I handed her a to do list. Gotcha. Gotcha. Whether we are talking to our children, our coworkers, our partners, even ourselves, I think my ...

  19. The Art of Empathetic Problem Solving

    The Art of Empathetic Problem Solving. As a leader, we are often called upon to problem solve with a customer or someone on our team. While most of us consider ourselves crack problem solvers, after all it is hard to get where we have without knowing how to solve problems, there is always more to learn and opportunities to do better.

  20. How does empathy influence creativity?

    This paper helped us understand how empathy works by pointing to the different places empathy lives and helps unpack its parts: self-awareness, "mental flexibility," and "emotional regulation"—each of which we can map to specific processes in the brain. Article The Neuroscience of Empathy: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise

  21. Lack of Empathy: What it Means and How to Deal

    1. Cognitive empathy This type of empathy is an intellectual understanding of someone else's feelings. It's the ability to consider other perspectives without sensing or experiencing them...

  22. Empathizing With Nature: The Effects of Perspective Taking on Concern

    In this article, I propose that concern for environmental problems is fundamentally linked to the degree to which people view themselves as part of the natural environment. Two studies are reported that test aspects of this theory. The first study describes the structure of people's concern for environmental problems.

  23. Problem solving is the enemy of empathy

    This poses a problem for empathy. Empathy connects us to others' pain. Problem solving is one of the most common blocks, and it can be hard to notice because most of the time problem solving is a pro social behaviour. Problem solving is an emotional intelligence skill. This comic is really great.

  24. How does writing a function rule as an equation help you solve problems

    The lengths of the parallel sides of a trapezoid are represented by a and b and it's height by h. The area of the trapezoid can be written as 1/2 ah+1/2 bh. Express this area as the product of two factors. Solution 1. A=1/2ab+1/2bh each term has 1/2b in common therefor it can be factored out 1/2b (a+b) Solution 2.