Empathy vs. Understanding

I suspect that a lot of what people do when they believe they are empathizing, is actually projecting their own feelings and values onto the other person.


…our usual way of listening is centered to a great degree on ourselves – our own similar life experiences, our own similar feelings, our own perspectives…We say things like “I know what you mean,” “Yeah,” “I hear you”…”I feel your pain”…we feel sympathy or empathy for this other who seems like us…


…our usual way of listening overlooks or rejects the otherness of the other. We rarely listen to what makes a story as told by another person unique, specific to that person alone…We rush to gloss over the differences and make the stories similar if not identical.


By Leigh Pretnar Cousins