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Debby

How to develop empathy

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Debby

I recently came to terms that I have been dx'd with Aspergers and have further realized how much I lack empathy for others when I've hurt them.  As someone who cares about people very much and doesn't want to bring harm to others, how have people developed empathy?

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Paul Hostler

Sounds like you have empathy or you wouldn't be nice and care about hurting people. Perhaps you just don't express it? I too want to be kind, but when I hurt someone's feelings I don't automatically apologise or comfort them and have to make a conscious effort to do so. It's taken a long time but it's slowly becoming a habit. I hope this helps.  

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Debby

Paul,

Thank you so much for your kind words!  I do believe I have a kind heart and hurt for others, but it comes in the form of sympathy vs empathy using the following definition of both: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.  I have compassion and sorrow for others because I know based on what I've been taught in life, but I have always had troubles with empathy.  I've been told empathy is also feeling the pain of another person and that, I just can't do, especially if I'm the one who did the hurting.

 

I recently hurt a very dear friend by my words which were not intentional, but hurtful to her core nonetheless.  I felt horrible to know that I hurt her, but I felt nothing when thinking it from her feelings even though I tried, I really tried!  She was able to understand me a little from the aspie aspect of my functioning, but still was very hurt and significant damage was done to our relationship.  I've been told, aside from this situation that I'm very blunt and this can be quite hurtful.  Mostly I just don't know when my words are hurtful. :(

I'm consistently trying to improve myself, but aside from a miracle, I really don't know how one develops empathy. :(. I'm open to other thoughts on this and how others have dealt with this.

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Gone away

I went on a work related course (social care) in the 90s which I found very helpful at the time.

We can all awaken dormant skills, but only get good at what we do - so abilities can vary at different life stages.

I think anyone with a conscience (as you clearly do) can become more aware of empathising but it requires practice.

Trouble is we are honest to a fault (say what we see), but sometimes need to hold back and think about positive or helpful ways of expressing our observations and how they will be perceived.

If you've just been diagnosed then maybe you have been in a stressed state.

Filters do tend to drop when stressed as I know only to well.

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Gone away

I tend to sense things in an animal way when stressed ... I need to be calm and at ease to focus on empathising and will never be the worlds greatest. 

I tend to overdo or underdo and rarely find the happy medium

We cant be brilliant at everything, but can probably manage some competency with most things.

I wouldn't worry about setting the bar too high, but if you are like me you will learn whatever you set your mind to

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Debby

Going Home,

Thank you for your comments.  I can see what you're saying about being stressed and yes, that evening I was still stressed about my functioning (or lack there of) from the previous night.  After saying what I did, my friend reacted VERY strongly and I was hurt that I hurt her so badly, but in trying to "feel" her hurt, it seemed like there was a complete block keeping me from being empathetic.  My being sympathetic did nothing for the situation. :(

Thinking back on the situation, I should have done what you mentioned above by clearly seeing my words as hurtful when I thought I was being supportive/in agreement with my friend.  It was a topic that reached her core.  You are right, more thoughts than speech is better!

I am setting my bar high to learn because it's not okay to hurt others, but I'm not even sure where to start to learn it as it seems like it should be innate.  Honestly, as a person of faith, I am turning to my faith to overcome this aspect of relating to others, but I imagine it will take a lot of hard work as well as faith!

 

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Gone away

@Debby I think if you just try keywords into the internet as search terms - autism double empathy - empathy relationships - empathy counselling - empathy therapy - and image search empathy worksheets.

Gradually you may find bits of info that resonate with you.

I think the trouble is once we say what we see (without consideration) - the other person feels uncomfortable and raises barriers - which maybe makes it harder for us to empathise / connect with them. So sometimes its the other persons barriers that makes it hard to empathise. As we tend to communicate bluntly its almost a self fulfilling prophesy.

In autism there are terms such as 'theory of mind' and 'double empathy' which are worth researching.

I don't know too much about them.  I think focusing on being relaxed and comfortable solves most issues. For some of us that can be a challenge with people and life outside

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Debby

@Going home,

Thank you for the keywords, I will definitely look into it to see what I can find.

I've had a few people say "that's just Debby" and move on, but this person is really struggling with that despite her significant social knowledge and skill set.

But, I will keep researching and improving!!!

Thanks Going Home!

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DavidTheWitch

Holy fudge we have empathy just not cognitive empathy. Like psychopaths have no emotional empathy we have no cognitive empathy. But you are talking about emotional empathy here?

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Gone away
2 hours ago, DavidTheWitch said:

Holy fudge we have empathy just not cognitive empathy. 

So another search term is 'autism cognitive empathy' 

Having just read a little I don't think its necessarily true though ... there are people opposed to the idea ... everyone is different

Here's the link

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/aspergers-alive/201303/guide-reporting-autism-theory-mind-empathy

Edited by Going home

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