What type of empathy do you practice?

May 03, 2021

Angelica PatlánBy Angelica Patlán

I used to believe that there was one type of empathy, and you either had it or didn’t. But I was wrong! According to psychologists, there are actually three types of empathy. Can you guess what they are?

  • Cognitive: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing their perspective
  • Emotional: feeling the other person’s emotions
  • Compassionate: Feeling someone else’s experience while taking action to help.

Why do these three types of empathy matter to HR and leadership? Because more often than not, we can get stuck in cognitive and emotional empathy. And there are dark sides to both.

We can put ourselves into someone else’s shoes without ever feeling sympathy for them. We can get too emotional to where it takes away from the other person.

But the most troubling with these two types is that we are never really taking action to solve the problem. Instead, these situations can become a vicious cycle that goes nowhere.

How can we build compassionate empathy within ourselves and as leaders?

  • Balance cognitive and emotional to reach compassion and action.
  • Challenge ourselves to work towards a collaborative solution rather than a cycle.

What type of empathy do you practice the most?

About the Author

Angelica Patlán is an HR Coordinator for Assemble HR Consulting. She holds an M.S. in Human Resource Management and uses her nontraditional background (former 911 dispatcher) and Anthropology major to inform her HR approach. Each Saturday, Angelica and Tiffany Castagno co-moderate "Let's Talk HR" on Clubhouse at 11a PT / 2p ET. She currently resides in the Bay Area with her partner and two dogs. 


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