Empathy: I Hear You, I Understand, and You Are Not Alone - Expat Nest e-counselling



Empathy: I Hear You, I Understand, and You Are Not Alone


“There is a nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy and a grace in forgiveness” – novelist John Connolly.


A world full of beauties… a world full of miseries… in everyday life, we are surrounded by bad news from media and people we know, whether it’s death, disease, a natural disaster, or just the news of a friend who’s lost a job.

This sometimes puts us in a difficult position. Should we feel sorry, vulnerable or resigned? Do we express our thoughts and emotions or stay neutral? Is there a golden rule? How to respond really depends on the situation itself. What we do know is that empathy can be the key to greater understanding and better communication with others.


What is empathy?

Empathy is believed to be a physical process in human beings, one that’s evident when we reach for a box of tissues during an emotional Finding Nemo scene, or when we break down after hearing that a beloved family member has advanced cancer. We have the ability to extend ourselves and feel someone’s else’s experience as our own. It is the power of recognizing a part of ourselves in another.

Nevertheless, we might find ourselves mistrusting, detaching, shutting down and remaining self-focused. In an attempt to ‘protect’ ourselves from other people’s dramas, we may give in to easier solutions like sympathy and misjudgement.


Sympathy vs. empathy?

By being sympathetic, we express some emotions that show concern but don’t necessarily reveal a genuine sense of caring. This is probably how the majority of us react while listening to a news report about people in a faraway country who have suffered an earthquake, for example. We might feel sorry for their situation but in a more detached way.

To genuinely empathise we need to stand shoulder to shoulder, see eye to eye and feel heart to heart with the other person. (Take a few moments to watch this beautiful animation, narrated by Brené Brown, on the difference between the two.) Of course, we need to find a balance: if we empathise with every sad story, we can start to develop compassion fatigue.


Let’s take an example…

When your friend starts talking about her breakup, instead of judging or providing advice or “at least” solutions (such as “at least you found out sooner rather than later that he wasn’t worthy of you”), try this: spend your time with her, listening and asking thoughtful questions to try to understand her position. Use your heart and not just your head, because that’s what most of us need in a vulnerable moment: to be listened to and not judged or guided.

Or let’s say your manager launches an angry outburst towards you. At first, this aggressive style will probably irritate you, but try to take a closer look. Your manager has a lot of stress to deal with on a daily basis, right? The aggressive style might be instead that he or she feels overwhelmed or defeated. By adopting an empathic mentality – and having clear boundaries as well – you will feel more relaxed, and there will be better communication between the two of you.


Embracing our empathetic nature

Empathy is an integral part of our work in counselling. I believe we wouldn’t be doing our jobs right without this very important soft skill. We are here to see the problem through the other person’s eyes, to really understand and reassure, and to help find the best solution for them.

Empathy, a pure and deep connection, can work miracles in humans relations, because it shares the message “I understand. You are not alone.” As we try to better understand the people we interact with, we come a step closer to better communities and more serene lives. So give it a try… starting now!


With thanks to Dimiliana Nikiforou for her contribution to this article.


What has helped you develop empathy towards others? How important do you think empathy is? Please share your tips below!


Subscribe to our newsletter and feel free to share this article as a thank you to a friend who has always offered YOU the gift of empathy.




  1. Carol says:

    One of the most important things about my recent sessions with Expat Nest was the empathy. I didn’t realise this until after the first session, but the ability to talk to somebody who wouldn’t judge and just tried to understand how difficult the situation was for me, and it was a huge relief to get something off my chest that I couldn’t tell anyone else.

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Dear Carol,
      Thank you so much for your comment and kind feedback for our work at Expat Nest! We love what we do and we do it with lots of love, compassion and respect to each one of our clients.
      Indeed our sessions are a safe place for you and glad to hear that you feel this way!
      Thank you for choosing Expat Nest; it is an absolute pleasure to work with you.

  2. Maria says:

    My involvement with the HR made me study more about empathy or compassion and develop that soft skill of mine. Empathy is perhaps the stepping stone to compassion. It is the moment when you absolutely feel what the other person feels and you want to find a solution. This creates stronger relationships between people and strengthens the part of cooperation. I really liked this article as it purposefully explains the importance of empathy. It is very important for the person in front of you to understand that you honestly listen to him and understand him.

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Dear Maria,
      I love how you describe empathy as the moment when you are in complete connection with what the other person feels.
      Empathy and compassion are what help us build genuine and strong relations with others – and it’s such an important skill to have (in every field!)
      Thank you for your comment.

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