Empathy (quotes)


What is empathy?


Empathy is putting ourselves in another’s shoes and seeing through their eyes

  • Empathy: The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person.  Alain de Botton
  • My third piece of advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy – to put yourself in other people’s shoes – to see the world from their eyes. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world. Barack Obama
  • Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. Alfred Adler
  • If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Empathy is putting yourself in another’s shoes to find out what exactly that person is feeling or going through at the given time. It basically refers to being at a common wavelength with someone. Deepa Kodikal
  • If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own. Henry Ford
  • Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant? Henry David Thoreau
  • I have wanted you to see out of my eyes so many times. Elizabeth Berg
  • Put yourself in the other man’s place and then you will know why he thinks certain things and does certain deeds. Elbert Hubbard

Empathy is conceiving how we would feel in a similar situation

  • As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Adam Smith
  • Empathy depends not only on one’s ability to identify someone else’s emotions but also on one’s capacity to put oneself in the other person’s place and to experience an appropriate emotional response. Charles G. Morris
  • Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person. Heinz Kohut
  • Moral imagination is the capacity to empathize with others, i.e., not just to feel for oneself, but to feel with and for others. This is something that education ought to cultivate and that citizens ought to bring to politics. McCollough
  • To understand any living thing, you must, so to say, creep within and feel the beating of its heart.   Macneile Dixon

Empathy is a gift; a triumph of imagination and soul


The ability to empathize is a wonderful quality and a great gift

  • Among all the creatures of creation, the gods favor us: We are the only ones who can empathize with their problems. David Eagleman
  • This is the most enormous extension of vision of which life is capable: the projection of itself into other lives. This is the lonely, magnificent power of humanity. It is . . . the supreme epitome of the reaching out. Loren Eiseley
  • I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization. Roger Ebert
  • The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other. Meryl Streep
  • To me, empathy and compassion are among the bravest of emotions … and faith, the bravest of convictions. Gerard de Marigny
  • There is absolutely no single aspect of one’s personality that is more important to develop than empathy, which is not a skill at which men typically are asked to excel. I believe empathy is not only the core of art, literature and music, but should also be at the core of society, from ethics to economics. Chris Ware
  • Empathy is the great healer. Danielle LaPorte

Empathy is a triumph of imagination

  • Only curiosity about the fate of others, the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, and the will to enter their world through the magic of imagination, creates this shock of recognition. Without this empathy there can be no genuine dialogue, and we as individuals and nations will remain isolated and alien, segregated and fragmented. Azar Nafisi
  • If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in. Frederick Buechner
  • Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not – and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation – in its’ arguably most tranformative and revelatory capacity it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared. K. Rowling
  • Moral imagination is the capacity to empathize with others, i.e., not just to feel for oneself, but to feel with and for others. This is something that education ought to cultivate and that citizens ought to bring to politics. McCollough
  • A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you. Susan Sarandon
  • Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our   It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality. Ian McEwan
  • I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination. It makes people able to put themselves in other people’s places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. Jean Webster
  • Imagination

Empathy is a sense of the soul

  • Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don’t know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more. JoyBell C.
  • The soul

How empathy is fostered


Listening without judgement is the cornerstone of empathy

  • Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn. Alice Miller
  • Empathy lies in our ability to be present without opinion. Marshall Rosenberg
  • ListeningLet go of the need to judgeAcceptance

We come to understand others through imitation

  • We come to understand others via imitation. Marco Iacoboni
  • Social psychology studies have demonstrated that imitation is pervasive, automatic, and facilitates empathy. Marco Iacoboni
  • The potential for a close link between the ability to imitate others and the ability to empathize with others has been appreciated by researchers and theorists dating back at least to the late 19 th century. Susan S.Jones
  • The minds of men are mirrors of one another. David Hume
  • When I wish to find out how wise, or how stupid, or how good, or how wicked is any one, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression. Edgar Allan Poe
  • The human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being only becomes human at all by imitating other human beings. Theodor Adorno
  • I live in the facial expressions of the other, as I feel him living in mine. Merleau-Ponty

Empathy and understanding are intertwined

  • Empathy means both understanding others on their own terms and bringing them within the orbit of one’s own experience. Jacob A. Belzen
  • Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. Marshall Rosenberg
  • Understanding

Empathy and love are intertwined

  • Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well- being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of yourself. Jonathan Franzen
  • Love is that enviable state that knows no envy or vanity, only empathy and a longing to be greater than oneself. Thomas More
  • I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very thing I look at, and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness, love; you may give it any name you like. Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart. Tahereh Mafi
  • Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love. Gregory Boyle
  • But love, honest love, requires empathy. It is a sharing—of joy, of pain, of laughter, and of tears. Honest love makes one’s soul a reflection of the partner’s moods. And as a room seems larger when it is lined with mirrors, so do the joys become amplified. And as the individual items within the mirrored room seem less acute, so does pain diminish and fade, stretched thin by the sharing. That is the beauty of love, whether in passion or friendship. A sharing that multiplies the joys and thins the pains. A. Salvatore
  • Empathy is like giving someone a Psychological Hug.  Lawrence J.
  • LoveUnconditional love

Suffering teaches empathy

  • The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Elizabeth Kubler- Ross
  • Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. Fritz William
  • I call him religious who understands the suffering of others. Mahatma Gandhi
  • To embrace suffering culminates in greater empathy, the capacity to feel what it is like for the other to suffer, which is the ground for unsentimental compassion and love. Stephen Batchelor
  • Suffering

Reading teaches us empathy

  • Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.  Ann Patchett
  • We all suffer alone in the real world. True empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can alow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with their own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple. David Foster Wallace
  • By making stories full of empathy and amusement and the sheer pleasure of discovering the world, these writers reassert the fact that we live in a world where joy and empathy and pleasure are all around us, there for the noticing. Ira Glass
  • You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive. James Baldwin
  • Reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways…It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being. John Connolly
  • The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny. Ursula K. Le Guin
  • As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. Martha C. Nussbaum
  • You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. James Baldwin
  • Reading

Rewards of empathy


Empathy brings enormous rewards

  • Empathy is the only human superpower-it can shrink distance, cut through social and power hierarchies, transcend differences, and provoke political and social change. Elizabeth Thomas
  • Only by examining our personal biases can we truly grow as artists; only by cultivating empathy can we truly grow as people. Jen Knox
  • Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide. Jonathan Haidt
  • True contentment comes with empathy. Tim Finn
  • It is difficult to hate people with whom you empathize. Walter Stephan
  • Empathy allows us to re-perceive our world in a new way and move forward. Marshall Rosenberg
  • If the other persons behavior is not in harmony with my own needs, the more I empathize with them and their needs, the more likely I am to get me own needs met. Marshall Rosenberg
  • I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy. Nikki Giovanni
  • Empathy is a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. Simon Baron- Cohen

Most of all, empathy and understanding bring peace

  • Peace requires something far more difficult than revenge or merely turning the other cheek; it requires empathizing with the fears and unmet needs that provide the impetus for people to attack each other. Being aware of those feelings and needs, people lose their desires to attack back because they see the human ignorance leading to those attacks. Instead, their goal becomes providing the empathic connection and education that will enable them to transcend their violence and engage in cooperative relationships. Marshall Rosenberg
  • Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Albert Einstein
  • By peace we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively – a never- ending process.  Johan Galtung
  • Throughout the world, teachers, sociologists, policymakers and parents are discovering that empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance. Arundhati Ray
  • Inner peace

Blocks to empathy

  • Intellectual understanding blocks empathy. Marshall Rosenberg
  • Big egos have little ears. Robert Schuller
  • Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action. Daniel Goleman
  • Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy. Dean Koontz
  • If it is not tempered by compassion, and empathy, reason can lead men and women into a moral void. Karen Armstrong
  • Bearing witness means choosing to suffer. Indeed, empathy is literally ‘feeling with.’ Choosing to suffer is particularly difficult in a culture that is addicted to comfort–a culture that teaches that pain should be avoided whenever possible and that ignorance is bliss. We can reduce our resistance to witnessing by valuing authenticity over personal pleasure, and integration over ignorance. Melanie Joy
  • When your own life is threatened, your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival. Yann Martel

Empathy verse compassion and sympathy


Empathy versus compassion

  • I think people believe empathy to be compassion, that compassion is an inner sense (a sense of the soul). But empathy is a sense, while compassion isn’t a sense. Empathy is an affinity, a communion, a comprehension. They say that empathy is compassion, but I think that the two are independent of each other. You see, through empathy you will feel what another is feeling, including all those plans for manipulation and persuasion. You will feel everything, not just the parts that make you take compassion for the person, but also all the red flags! You see, empathy is a sense that works with the other senses such as foresight and intuition. So, we can feel compassion, but we have to move with empathy. JoyBell C.
  • Compassion

Empathy and sympathy are different

  • In empathy one substitutes oneself for the other person; in sympathy one substitutes others for oneself. The object of empathy is understanding. The object of sympathy is the other person’s well- being. In sum, empathy is a way of knowing; sympathy is a way of relating. Wispe
  • Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgment. And it is sometimes the more appropriate emotion or response. But people often feed on sympathy. It makes them dependent. Stephen Covey
  • With empathy, I’m fully with them, and not full of them – that’s sympathy. Marshall Rosenberg
  • As the pain that can be told is but half a pain, so the pity that questions has little healing in its touch. What Lily craved was the darkness made by enfolding arms, the silence which is not solitude, but compassion holding its breath. Edith Wharton

On a lighter note

  • Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. Jack Handey
  • Until you walk a mile in another man’s moccasins you can’t imagine the smell.  Robert Byrne