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Emotional Intelligence For Dummies® by Steven J. Stein

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Chapter 7. Understanding Empathy

In This Chapter

  • Distinguishing empathy from sympathy

  • Gauging other people's emotions

  • Using empathy to show people that you understand what they feel

  • Putting empathy to work in your life

You can view empathy as one of the hallmarks of emotional intelligence. It has a special role to play in just about every theory of emotional intelligence. Psychologists have done a great deal of research that looks at many aspects of empathy — how to define it, how it works, how to use it, how to improve it, how to explain it to others, and so on.

Empathy is so important, in part, because it can effectively and efficiently connect you with other people. It's also pretty versatile. On the one hand, empathy enables you to bond with your partner, children, close friends, and any other people you care about. On the other hand, empathy can help you out when you're in a tight spot with a difficult person.

Here's the good news: People can develop empathy. So, if you think you have mediocre or even poor skills in this area, you now know that you can improve. Even if you think you're pretty good at empathy, there's more good news — you can get even better!

After you obtain a good understanding of what empathy is (and what it isn't), you can improve your empathy skills. Like the other emotional intelligence skills I talk about in this book, developing empathy just takes some practice.

Knowing the Difference between Empathy and Sympathy

If you're like most people, you may not be clear ...

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