I recently saw a video posted through LifeHacker regarding the importance of empathy in everyday life. After watching this video, I reflected and thought to myself, “Not only is this a great tool to use with some of my clients, but this is so applicable to anyone!”

Although empathy may be innate to many of us, as therapists, we focus on teaching and improving this skill among many of the clients who come through our doors. For many individuals, especially those on the autism spectrum, understanding other’s perspectives, feelings, and thoughts needs to be explicitly taught.

Empathy and sympathy are often confused. As defined by Andy Orin from LifeHacker, empathy is an “active attempt to understand another persons perspective, emotions, and reality.” Sympathy, on the other hand, is broadly feeling sorrow or pity for someone else.

By working on empathy, we are also working in parts of “Whole Body Listening” through another person (e.g., We see with the eyes of another, engage in active listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another) in addition to basic conversational skills (e.g., In order to understand what another may be going through we need to ask follow-up questions). Finally, increasing empathy may be the foundation of a new friendship that you may have otherwise ignored.

The more I try to understand what my clients may be going through, the better I can serve them. Moreover, the more we all try and understand those who surround us, the more likely we can make a difference. I encourage each of you to reflect this week about your own personal use of empathy!

Check out the video and original post by Andy Orin here:

Written By:
Lauren Blume, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist