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Empathy Can Be Learned

In Brene' Brown's book 'I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn't), Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough", Brene' identifies the following...

"Real empathy takes more than words - it takes work. Empathy is not simply knowing the right thing to say to someone who is experiencing shame. Our words are only as effective as our ability to be genuinely present and engaged with someone as she tells her story."

Brene' then DEFINES empathy:

"I define empathy as the skill or ability to tap into our own experiences in order to connect with an experience someone is relating to us."

Brene' also gives credit to Arn Ivey, Paul Pederson, and Mary Ivey in another definition of empathy. She states that they describe empathy as:

"The ability to perceive a situation from the other person's perspective. To see, hear and feel the unique world of the other."

How can we experience empathy? From one human being to another. Someone who seeks to understand, is full of compassion, and helps you understand you matter and that you are not alone. Maybe a partner, maybe a friend, a family member...whoever is on your "support team".

So, the take home messages on empathy are:

  1. Empathy is LEARNED. It is a SKILL.

  2. Growth and healing do not occur in a vacuum. We do not grow and heal without empathy. And empathy must be EXPERIENCED interpersonally - from one person to one person.

Want to learn more about how to learn this essential life skill? Be sure to ask me in your next session!

Stay brave,


Brown, Brene'. I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think? to "I Am Enough". Penguin Random House LLC, New York, NY, 2007.

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