How can I learn empathy?

I'm not a very good friend because I can't empathize with people. I can sympathize a whole lot, but I can't remember ever feeling empathy.

I'm the kind of person who internalizes my feelings. I rarely talk about them. And when I do talk, I vent. I don't expect people to say anything back to me, I just want to ramble but feel like someone is listening.

My friends like to talk about their feelings and they expect me to be able to do or say something to make them feel better. Those situations are always very awkward because I never know what to say. I dread saying the wrong thing, and often do. I just can't share or understand their feelings.

I'm great at all other areas of friendship, but this is an important area and I should be able to handle it. My friends are amazing and deserve much better than that.


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Most Helpful Guy

  • Well, I think the biggest component to empathy is having shared experiences. If you haven't gone through the same thing, there's little your friends can expect from you. Otherwise, you're left to imagine what you'd do in their shoes, and from there you can try and figure out what you'd do to make your life better, or something like that, otherwise I just end up sharing what I've done. Sometimes just telling someone that you're sorry they're experiencing whatever they're going through, the other person will continue talking and you get more info, more things you can use to go on. The majority of counseling is trying to get the other person to figure out what they plan to do and all that, so ask those sorts of questions, let them do the work, they'll work through it and you don't have to worry about making suggestions or anything like that. I'm no expert either, but these are the things I work with. And having compassion for others is a large part of being empathetic. Hope that helped at all.

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What Guys Said 5

  • Dunno if that's entirely true, if read some of answers here and they do show empathy or maybe I'm reading it all wrong. It's easier to do it here for you because your not face to face with the person and maybe hold a bit back when in the company of a real person, afraid that you'll hurt their feeling or your own.

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  • Empathy is there, if you are not self.centred. Be open and concentrated by the opinion of others. Learn to understand, why they think and act in a specific kind. This has nothing to do with an agreement, only the ability to know what the matter of the other person. Patient is of course necessary for such. A lot of people have problems to listen, what the other person want to say. So self.control is important. Last but not least, have a little bit distance to yourself and the other person. (one step back,for to go one step forward)

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  • I don't think its something you want to learn. lol

    Just visualize yourself in situations where you felt the same emotions, does not have to relate to the other persons experience. Injustice, loss, and other things can occur in many different forms and situations. Tell people that even though you can't relate directly that you can at least see how something like that would upset them. After that just try to build them back up. Don't drag out the feelings of misery.

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  • I am the same way around my Friends and I can't stand saying the Wrong thing. but that's life and You are YOU, I'm sure they don't care..just try not to over think it.

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  • i sort of have the same problem although I think I've gotten better at fixing it. I guess it's really going through similar experiences as them. also generalizing the issue helps. just like anything, the more you pay attention to an issue you want to fix and the more you work at it, the better it'll get. I used to be very socially unaware (empathy is a big part of successful socializing) but I payed attention and tried and now I am much better. just keep it on your mind at all times to consider how people are feeling and similar experiences you've been in that caused similar feelings.

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What Girls Said 4

  • I'm not good either. Sometimes you tried to put yourself in their shoes but what they experienced is often too complicated for you to feel what they're feeling. If they're really down or upset, I usually encourage them to speak more so that I can get more info and repeat the content in my own understanding. Although you may not be able to empathize them but through this way they will know at least you're listening, and it can come off almost as you understand how they feel.

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  • I'm the same way. I'm slowly trying to be more sensitive to the people around me, but I'm quite terrible at it. I can assess situations well and figure out what people are thinking/feeling, but I struggle to understand the reasons for those feelings and why they can't control them.

    Personally, I try and be more subjective when they talk to me. I avoid thinking about how I'd act in their position because I know that I think differently to them. My close friends know how I am though, and they are pretty on point in that they avoid overly emotional confessionals with me, because they know how awkward I get.

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  • " I don't expect people to say anything back to me, I just want to ramble but feel like someone is listening"

    I'm the same way, although I can understand why people feel the way they do most of the time but I can't always relate. I have no problem seeing things from other perspectives but I have trouble actually feeling what they feel. I don't know if anyone can learn empathy, or at least I wouldn't know how someone can learn it.

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  • just act like you care

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