The Four Attributes of Empathy

Our brains are wired to run from pain. Whether it is our own pain or someone else’s.

Last week I had a friend call me that was in pain. We ended up being on the phone for almost an hour. I am not going to share the details out of respect for them. However, this week when they called, they wanted to thank me for being there during this challenging time.

It got me thinking about what I did and reminded me about the work of nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman. Theresa’s work includes the four attributes of empathy, which are –

  1. To be able to see the world as others see it,
  2. To be non-judgemental,
  3. To understand another’s person’s feelings, and
  4. To communicate the understanding of that person’s feelings.

This is a dynamic process and is essentially what I did for my friend. I also didn’t try to fix the situation. I was empathetic to her situation, not sympathetic as there is a difference.

In the following video, Dr Brene Brown discusses the differences between empathy and sympathy and how sympathy drives disconnection and empathy drives connection.

Over to You –

  1. How can knowing the difference between empathy and sympathy help you in your relationships?
  2. Could you see yourself using the four attributes of empathy in your relationships? If so, where?


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