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The 3 Types Of Empathy And Why They Are Important

Types Of Empathy They Are Important

Empathy is an essential trait that enables us to better understand relationships. But what are the 3 types of empathy according to psychologists? Understanding these types can help us become more empathetic and connect better with others.

What are the 3 types of empathy?

As empathy is a vast concept, we often tend to appropriately show different kinds of empathy in different situations. Hence, psychologists have identified 3 distinct types of empathy that we may commonly feel. These include – emotional, cognitive & compassionate empathy. These three forms of empathic responses tend to manifest in unique ways based on our own personal experiences in life.

Let us explore what are the 3 types of empathy and gain a better understanding about how empathic we truly are:

1. Emotional empathy

Types of Empathy Emotional empathy
What are the 3 types of empathy

This kind of empathy occurs when you experience another person’s emotions along with them, as if their emotions are contagious. Emotional empathy enables you to physically experience someone else’s pain. Hence, you may experience an upset stomach or may vomit when someone is in pain. According to psychologists, emotional empathy includes three primary aspects:

  • Experiencing the same emotions as another individual
  • Experiencing personal distress due to the other’s pain & suffering
  • Experiencing compassion for the affected individual

Also identified as affective empathy, it can make you experience certain physical sensations as they are triggered by mirror neuron responses in the somatic nervous system in our brain. As you can physically experience another’s emotions, you are better able to connect with their emotional state. However, this can be a difficult and problematic trait for people who have trouble setting up personal boundaries as it can leave them feeling drained and exhausted due to other’s suffering. Among the three types of empathy, emotional empathy can feel the most overwhelming and can seem inappropriate in some situations. However, it is not necessarily a negative experience. 

Also known as emotional contagion, this form of empathic response can help you feel more connected to others and strengthen relationships. It allows us to readily identify and experience others’ emotions and is considered important in caring professions, like caregivers, healthcare professionals & doctors. It enables us to respond to our loved ones and people in distress appropriately. However, as it can often leave you feeling overwhelmed, it can lead to empathy overload.

Hence, when understanding what are the 3 types of empathy, it is important that you learn to set strong personal boundaries and practice self-control to better manage your own emotions & avoid burnout.

Read also: The Science Behind Empathy And Empaths: 5 Interesting Facts

2. Cognitive empathy

Types of Empathy cognitive
What are the 3 types of empathy

One of three main types of empathy, it refers to our capacity for identifying the perceptions, attitudes and mental states of other individuals on an intellectual level. Cognition refers to knowing or thinking. Cognitive empathy helps us understand what someone may be thinking in a given condition and realize that their cognitive states can differ from ours. Also known as theory of mind (ToM), it is often regarded as perspective-taking. This form of empathy necessitates that we utilize our cognitive processes, like intellect, inferences, attention, communication & reflection to know what someone is thinking and why they may think that way. It helps us communicate more effectively by enabling us to transfer information in the most appropriate way. 

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts