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Building Empathy With Communicating With Others

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Why is empathy such an important role in communication? Why is it so hard to show empathy for someone facing a situation you never experienced? Does complex thinking effect empathy in way or are they different when communicating? What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? Why is it so hard to build empathy over sympathy? I didn’t know what I was expecting growing up, especially in a high context culture, my family mostly speaking Vietnamese and hardly no English and going out in a world full of interpersonal communication. I’m hoping to learn how to use and build empathy correctly with everyone I communicate with like friends, family, and romantic partners. I want to feel like I did something good, that people will see it and appreciate it that I understood where they are coming from instead of me showing them sympathy.

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Empathy may be valuable, but it isn’t always easy to achieve. These are the studies I have found that caught my attention, “Empathy, Complex Thinking and Their Interconnections” by Camilla Pagani and “Does it matter if I feel sorry or sorry for you? Testing the roles of empathy and sympathy as mechanisms driving viewers response to a dramatic ad” by John G. Wirtz, Sela Sar, and Brittany R. L. Duff. Another source from a textbook called “Interplay, The Process of Interpersonal Communication” by Ronald B. Alder The first study was about empathy and complex thinking and how it works together when it comes to interacting with one another. Complex thinking is involving cognitive and emotive process where independents will try to perceive the meaning of themselves, people around them, and other reality that they will be interested in. There are some important cognitive and emotive case events that come in a process of complex ideas of thinking like, being aware of the complexity of your emotions and thoughts, involving several members into perspective taking, and having openness to new capacity and realities. Empathy on the other hand is like “…a situation-specific affective and cognitive state in which a person understands (or tries to undersant), feels (or partly feels) and it moved by his/her understanding of the other’s inner experience”.

The research studies will specify that empathic experience will encounter empathic feelings and cognitive empathy when interacting in different ways. To put this into understanding, it means the interaction between the role of two components can differ correspondingly to the distinctive of the situation. The study will focus on the emotional components that are experiencing empathic reactions and dissimilar levels of complexity that will be current in the emotional components itself. Pagani will study the interconnections between complex thinking and empathy in the context of diversity by studying youths’ and cultural relationships. The researchers performed the study by linguistic communication and giving Italian students anonymous open-ended essays. The essay was about them expressing their attitudes of what they think of multiculturalism in their society today. The study gathered and analyzed 79 open-ended essays by school students of 41 females and 38 males, from ages of 14-18. The student’s participation was a normal in-class activity and part of their curriculum. The researchers asked the participants to write down what they think of their views and experiences in their life that became multicultural: For a long time now Italy has been inhabited not only by Italians but also by people coming from other countries. We are interested in what you think about this topic. Tell us about your experiences and the experiences of others, also referring to what happens both at school and in society in general.

The students were given an hour to a half to finish their assignment. After the students were don’t, they were told to write down their gender only and not specify their religion or if they were immigrants or Italian. After collecting the work, the researchers and the author analyzed the essays and gathered the results by looking for categories of, “coherence, honesty, concreteness, multiple perspective-taking, and creativity” and by using a five point Likert scale and mainly focusing on the understanding of the text itself. A 14-year-old participant essay stood out to them, she introduces the idea of human being and people being judgmental like on there social status and physical looks. That people in todays society are lacking in something. She said:I think that people who judge others on the ground of their origin, or worse, of the economic situation of their country, well, I think these people are not free to think with their own head, I think they don’t know a single thing, History, Psychology, Science; people who limit themselves to skin color, to eyes or hair color… (Extract by 14-year-old girl).

The 14-year old girl clearly shows complex thinking and empathic concern about what other people think of others. That people’s relationship with others can seem so close but it’s practically difficult to speak where one could start or finish. Another essay by a 14-year old boy implied differently by emotional granularity and complexity: As I came from a little town, I was scared and intrigues by a multi-ethnic city. I was scared by the rumors on immigrants and intrigued by the many cultures I was coming across. As I started living here I found out that the rumors were all wrong, instead the opposite was true. As I was born in a big city and then moved to a little town, the people there saw me as a stranger but then, as I came here people coming from other states became the strangers… (Extract by 14-year old boy).

The boy shows positive interest in connection between cultural diversity and complex thinking. The researchers think that the boy is characterized by the complex emotions, that this shows attentiveness towards empathy. To sum this all up, researchers found out that individual people are characterized by emotional complexity, meaning having perception on thoughts and emotions, empathically interested in others emotional states. This shows a higher level of interpersonal communication and therefore, empathic attitudes and complex thinking are linked. Finally, empathy signals a situation that is in a cognitive state and awareness of discovering the other half of self differentiation. If you could see empathy as a powerful way of experiencing a specific identification with others, then you are aware to achieve a mental state of mindfulness. “The individual realizes that ‘the other’ is also ‘myself. ’ In this situation this ‘myself’ can only be an object of care and affection and cannot be the object of destructive feelings…”.

If you don’t show empathy towards people, it can affect your interpersonal communication with that person and they won’t see you as a superior person to talk to. Empathy may seem difficult to do but it is quit easy, if you just put in a little patient when listening to peoples perspective. Show interest and openness is most important to study then waiting for yourself to speak. Empathy shows us how deeply we can understand and connect with them when it comes to interpersonal communication. The second study was about feeling sorry from watching a dramatic ad on television and after watching it, do you show sympathy or empathy. “A narrative is a “cohesive and coherent story with an identifiable beginning, midde, and end that provides information about scene, characters, and conflict”.

Narratives can start off as dramatic and show structural attributes of creating feelings and emotions while producing empathy and sympathy. The feelings and emotions going on can encourage the persuasion process. “Research testing these hypotheses indicates that narratives do produce stronger feelings of sympathy and empathy than nonnarrative messages and that these emotions link message exposure to other persuasive outcomes, such as involvement, attitude, and intention”. The study will mainly be focused on comparing the effect of persuasion process on narrative ads vs non-narrative ads when it comes to which role is more important, sympathy or empathy. The narrative ads will show characters and conflicts with dramatic scenes, while non-narrative ads while still conveying the same equivalent verbal content but without characters and dramatic scenes. In addition to watch the effects of narrative and non-narrative ads, it is going to analyze the intention, involvement, and behavior on sympathy and empathy. By this, the researchers are going to see what important role in emotions come out to play especially linking the subjections to those outcomes. They performed it by using 108 undergraduate students from a university, there were 68 females and 40 males. The age group were from 18-21 year’s old. The participants were given a random assignment to watch a narrative and non-narrative ad, the ad was about child abuse but how to prevent it from happening. The narrative ad was about a little 7-year-old girl who is alone in her bedroom playing with her toy on the floor, then after she puts a chair against the door to prevent the abuser to enter then went to bed, the abuser banged on the door and tried to enter, the little girl looks terrified and goes under the blanket. After the ad, a narrator stands to talk about the signs of sexual abuse and talks about the step to prevention. The non-narrative ad shows verbal content, a female women talking about sexual abuse and how to prevent it, there are no scenes or characters. As you can see the different in the ads, the narrative ad represented more factors then the non-narrative ad. The students were assigned individual computers to watch the ad with there own headphones so they can have privacy and be focused.

After watching the ad, the participants were given booklets to write down what the measures were about in the study. The findings were different, the narrative ad constructed more of a higher measures of intention, involvement, and behavior from the students. The researchers saw that some of there behavior outcome was significant, that they wanted to know more about the issue of sexual abuse. Regarding the feelings of empathy and sympathy, at first it may seem that empathy varied many emotions and it played a main role of connecting the subjection to the ad and different convincing outcomes. “Theory of empathy is also relevant here, as he argued that an empathic response to a dramatic message delivered via the mass media is largely an automatic process driven by the activation of the viewers relevant past experiences with the same or similar situations”.

Sympathy they saw that it was a mutual feeling of sorrow and worry, it shows a main response to emotions that the participants felt. The researchers think that the students that participant in the study at least were likely to experience being alone or hiding under the blanket when scared when they were a little kid. Using dramatic scenes with conflict in ads with characters, it will show emotional feelings of empathy, then feeling just sorrow and worry. Sometime you think of ads are annoying and you just want to skip it, but sometimes when an ad shows something dramatic that’s actually happening in todays society, it will catch peoples attention. After all, people see more ads then they would watch the news now a day. Ads like these, can effect interpersonal communication, maybe people would talk about it more, or even maybe do something about it.

Finally, the last study I did was on the textbook “Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication 13th edition” by Alder, Rosenfield, and Proctor (2015). The textbook explores what empathy is and how to use empathy. Note as “the ability to recreate another person’s perspective, to experience the world from his or her point of view”. Alder states that there are three elements in empathy, one is perspective where your attitude is a way of out looking someone’s point of view, second is emotional contagion where you see another person’s emotions and it feels like their behaviors are somewhat similar to yours, and lastly concern is where you feel troubled by someone. In depth, “Full empathy requires both intellectual understanding of the other person’s position and an affective understanding of the other’s feelings”.

People think empathy and sympathy are related, but it’s not, sympathy is when you feel sorrow for that person and empathy is where you put yourself in that person’s shoe to understand the real matter. There are many ways to utilize empathy, as mention in a study “suggests that a trip to the art museum can broaden children’s worldviews and enhance their empathic imagination”. The textbook notes that it’s practical to feel what others’ encounter and you may see yourself feel the same way they do, so it’s not just letting yourself imagine what they undergo, there are many ways to access empathy, like physically meeting the same reality. Another, research study shows that it’s not easy to gain empathy because “it’s hardest to empathize with people who are radically different from us in age, sex, socioeconomic status, intelligence, and so forth”.

Alder et. al, (2015) mention that to make perception work, you have to build skills to open-mindedness, imagination, and commitment. Everything put together about empathy in the textbook by Alder et. al, it shows that its always going to be a immense challenge for us to face another persons feelings but with determination of being open minded and commitment you can do a better job of appreciating interpersonal connection. The studies I researched revealed that complex thinking can get in the way of empathy, only if you just think of yourself when you’re around others. It depends on how your personality is, usually being stubborn can get in the way of empathy also. But empathy is strong when you understand that persons experience because you probably went through it yourself like for example when you were younger. Empathy and sympathy are not correlated but it is easier to convey sympathy. Empathy is always going to be an important role in communication because everybody goes through a hard time in their life and they are going to spill out their issues to you and they will expect some kind of answer back. It’s key to show compassion because it’s a feeling of strong desire of sympathy and empathy together. It’s going to be hard no matter what situation you are in due to showing empathy for someone life experience because you never been through it yourself, but if you imagine and physically experience, then you can empathize their behavior without endorsing it.

During this research, I learned a good amount of sufficient information of how to build empathy while communicating with others. I know I will always be communicating with someone who will be going through tough times and learning about empathy made me see how people feel personally and even myself. It’s important on how you communicate even verbally and non-verbally because they want to see you how respond with your words and expression. I know everybody has different personality and communicating personally is not their thing. I’ve learned that being in a 3-4-year romantic relationship, my boyfriend always had trouble communicating with me after getting into an argument. That’s what made us have our ups and downs, but after noticing how he was and it wasn’t going to get better. I knew I had to do something, one day when we got into a big disagreement, I told him, ‘You need to communicate with me if you want to work out this relationship, or else one day we’re not going to be together anymore’ after repeating this to him all the time and leaving his space for a couple days, he started to see the problem.

Also, at work communicating is important especially with your co-workers, one time I knew something was up with my coworker Lena, I told her I’m always here if you need somebody to talk to. When she let everything out, I told her that I’ve been in that situation, you are not alone. From there, we shared so much personally information, I used empathy with my face expression, voice tones, and being open-minded.

15 Jun 2020

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