The Significance of Empathy in Fostering Mental Well-being 

Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali

Individuals around the world have various ways of coping with their struggles pertaining to their mental health. Some people manage to face and resolve their struggles by themselves, while others tend to also seek support from other people. Therefore, when an individual requires assistance from either his or her family members, peers, or colleagues, empathy plays a crucial role in dealing with their mental health issues. 

Empathy is well-defined as a quality or an ability to understand another individual’s situation emotionally from his or her perspective by imagining oneself in that state. It can be divided into two namely; emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is feeling the emotion another person feels, whereas the perception and intellectual capacity of how someone else feels is cognitive empathy, which is a skill that may take a while to develop. 

The term empathy is often misunderstood with the term sympathy which is a sense of feeling pity about how someone else may feel and is rather a superficial connection built with one another when compared to being empathetic. Even though both terminologies share the suffix -pathy (meaning ‘emotion’, ‘feeling’, or ‘suffering’), the major difference between empathy and sympathy is, the former deals with feeling and understanding what someone feels, and the latter does not deal with feeling or understanding another individual similarly. Hence, being sympathetic does not allow one to comprehend another person’s state from his or her point of view. 

When the impact of empathy on mental well-being is taken into consideration, it is indeed vital to practice the act of empathy because it renders an opportunity to connect with individuals at a deeper level while listening to their thoughts and feelings, especially if such thoughts and feelings have detrimental effects on their mental well-being. Apart from attempting to resolve others’ problems, cultivating empathy can also be beneficial to oneself in practicing emotional intelligence. Consequently, this would aid in keeping stress at bay by efficaciously managing stressful circumstances. 

Although being an empath may seem quite simple, not everyone is aware of implementing it effectively due to misconceptions. As a result, they end up being sympathetic toward someone else’s feelings and offer help out of sympathy, failing to display their sense of empathy. 

Therefore, to understand people and their emotions beyond a surface level, developing empathy becomes a necessity, especially for those holding leadership positions in a workplace for instance. 

Here are some methods that can be followed to develop empathy: 

1. Active listening 

One of the foremost factors that would help nurture the quality of empathy is listening. This needs to be done in a non-judgmental manner to the individual who is divulging their feelings This individual therefore becomes better understood and would reveal more information with trust. 

2. Try to stay away from biased thoughts 

Undoubtedly, all individuals have differences in opinions regarding various aspects. Subsequently, biased thoughts alone could prevent oneself from being empathetic as it is easier to judge another based on stereotypical viewpoints and stigmas. Thus, keeping such biased thoughts aside and analysing someone else’s state solely from their experience can help to become more empathetic. 

3. Refer to what they said with empathetic terms 

Another key strategy to become an empath is to repeat some words of what another individual would state along with some terms that would denote a sense of empathy such as ‘I understand’. This would potentially allow the individual to feel at ease as well as make corrections if the information is perceived incorrectly. 

Empathy is a quality, which is also considered a skill in certain contexts, that is essential when trying to think through what another person is experiencing in terms of their emotions at a deeper level. This in turn enables one to build a rapport that would help analyse the situation better. Additionally, this form of emotional support would assist them to sustain better mental health that cannot be achieved by merely sympathising.