compassion community critiques of empathy.

a comment on LinkedIn—this is a typical compassion community critique of empathy. I see it a lot. I want the defining empathy training to address it.


this was a response to a post on the LinkedIn Empathy Circle Café event.



Great to see, but we can burn out with too much empathy - rather we need compassion practices so we care and maintain our personal wellbeing first, before attending to others concerns and difficulties. This allows have the energy to not shutdown, or become overwhelmed. #compassion is a practice we must all cultivate to avoid #empathicdistress


edwins response.

thanks for the comments.. I do not think that is accurate and is a misunderstanding of empathy.

a culture of empathy is about MUTUAL empathy, i.e. everyone listening and empathizing with each other. if only one person is doing the listening, that is a empathy deficit in the relationship.

"Empathic distress" is not empathy but a block to empathy. It is really just distress, if you are distressed when you empathize with others and feeling overwhelmed, that is a block to empathy. It is also usually not knowing how to empathize well or not being well grounded. If you go into distress, getting empathy from others helps a lot.

One needs to be aware of compassion fatigue, which is burning out because of feeling sorry for someone else. Feeling sorry for people can be a block to empathy as well. A distinction between care and compassion needs to be made as well. with empathy when we listen to people and each other we start seeing our common humanity and care comes out of that.

hope you will join us in the empathy circle to discuss this. The structure of the empathy circle supports mutual empathy.