If you are in the serving profession, you have probably wondered more than once how much you should be involved in your clients’ stories. It can be challenging to find that perfect place where you can be caring and compassionate without jeopardizing the effectiveness of your service and your own emotional balance. In his blog, Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, reports on his conversation with Paul Ekman, an expert in understanding facial expressions and emotions, about three kinds of empathy: cognitive, emotional and compassionate.
According to Paul Ekman’s classification, “cognitive empathy” is “simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes called perspective-taking, this kind of empathy can help in, say, a negotiation or in motivating people.”
“Emotional empathy” is described as a state “when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious.”
Finally, with “compassionate empathy,” “we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed.”
Paul Ekman believes that the three kinds of empathy are learnable, like other emotional intelligence skills.