Skip to main content

Defining Empathy Skills in Practice: Carl Rogers and Unconditional Regard

The social context

“...deep understanding is, I believe, the most precious gift one can give to another.” - Carl Rogers

“People without social emotions like empathy are not objective decision-makers. They are sociopaths who sometimes end up on death row.” - David Brooks in an op-ed piece in the New York Times of 29 May 2009.

It seems the importance of empathy in our lives is understood by some, but perhaps practised by rather fewer people.

The purpose of this article is not to examine why that might be. The purpose of this article is rather to define empathy by examining something of the practical application of empathy, to see how we can use the skill, because it is a learnable skill, in daily life, as we go about our everyday business.

Empathy is defined by Carl Rogers as a core condition for successful counselling, although counseling as such is not the focus of this article.

The Rogers quote above indicates that empathy is important in relationships, in our interactions with people. Brooks is pointing to the attitudinal side of empathy, that empathy is an attitude, a feeling that we have. And that it is what he terms a “social emotion,” an emotion that is found in a social context where the lack of it is clearly, in his view, a threat to society.

The three factors in the person-centered philosophical approach. Graphic by Tony McGregor

The three factors in the person-centered philosophical approach. Graphic by Tony McGregor

The psychological context

Empathy as a social emotion is a vital component, an important and useful skill, in many social situations. It is the factor that improves relationships of all kinds, between parents and children, between lovers, between managers and their people, between team members at work or on the sports field.

Psychologist Carl Rogers, in his various writings, points out that the value of empathy in relationships works in the context of two other factors and should be understood in the context of the three factors together. The factors, which Rogers calls the “attitudinal elements making for growth”, are, besides empathy, congruence (also called realness) and caring (also called unconditional positive regard).

These three “attitudinal elements” fit together and in fact overlap to form what could be called a “person-centered philosophical approach.” The figure illustrates this.



Empathy, in the context in which this article is considering it, is the ability to enter, by a willed use of the imagination, another person's world without judgement. A broader understanding of empathy was considered in my previous article about the philosophical aspects of empathy, empathy as a broad way of perceiving the world and the connectedness of all living things.

In this context it is important to realise that empathy does not connote agreement. Empathy means understanding another person's feeling without passing any judgement on the appropriateness or otherwise of the feeling.

Prof. Robert Elliott of the University of Strathclyde explains congruence


Rogers writes that congruence is, “the term we have used to indicate an accurate matching of experiencing and awareness.” He continues that it can be extended to cover a “matching of experience, awareness and communication.” The interesting corollary to congruence is that, to quote Rogers again, “Accurate awareness of experience would always be expressed as feelings, perceptions, meanings, from an internal frame of reference.” (His italics).

At its simplest, congruence implies an accurate outward expression of the inner reality. Taking a simple example, a person who shouts, while thumping a table, “I'm not angry”, would immediately be experienced by the other person as incongruent, even though they might not have named the concept “congruence”. The communication on the emotional level is not in keeping with the intellectual content of the words “I'm not angry.” When communication takes place in this fashion it becomes difficult to trust the communication or the communicator. One doesn't know where one stands with such a person, or in such a situation.

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Unconditional Positive Regard

The third attitudinal factor is the acceptance of the other person, completely and without judgement. It involves allowing the other person, without reserve or conditions, in Rogers's words: “ have his own feelings and experiences, and to find his own meanings in them.” (From “Significant Learning: In Therapy and Education”, in Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, Houghton Mifflin, 1995.)

This full caring and acceptance is a pre-condition for openness between people, for complete honesty. When it is lacking the response is likely to be a closing off, the erection of barriers between people, and a consequent lack of honesty, or at least total honesty, between people. People will only communicate that which they feel safe to communicate, which might mean the self-censorship of their feelings and other responses.

The basic Johari Window. Graphic by Tony McGregor

The basic Johari Window. Graphic by Tony McGregor

The Johari Window with a widened "Arena" as a result of disclosing personal data and asking for feedback. Graphic by Tony McGregor

The Johari Window with a widened "Arena" as a result of disclosing personal data and asking for feedback. Graphic by Tony McGregor

Lyrics of "Nowhere Near"

Do you know how I feel
How I feel about you
Do you know this is real
How I feel around you

When I see you look at me
I'm not sure of anything
All I know is when you smile
I believe in everything
Do you know how I dream
How I dream about you
Do you know how I feel
Do you know...

Do you know how I feel
How I feel about you
Doesn't take much to tell
That I love, oh, I...

Everyone is here, but you're nowhere near

Thanks to fellow-writer Micky Dee from whom I "stole" this one!

Thanks to fellow-writer Micky Dee from whom I "stole" this one!

The communication context and Johari

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:" - Robert Burns: “To A Louse”

As Rogers points out, it is not enough that a person has these attitudes, they must be also experienced by the other person in the relationship. This means that a manager interacting with a subordinate, a team member interacting with another team member, spouses communicating, parents interacting with children, teachers in the classroom, all will find their relationships more effective if they are able to communicate to others their congruence, empathy and positive regard.

One way to understand how this happens is to use the famous Johari Window model. Introduced by psychologists Joe Ingham and Harry Luft in 1955, this model is a metaphorical way of understanding human interactions.

The model is a four-paned “window” in which each window represents a level of interpersonal awareness. Specifically the position of the vertical “bar” is affected by a person's ready to seek feedback from others and the position of the horizontal “bar” is affected by the person's readiness to give feedback or to disclose personal information.

The model is formed by the intersection of what is known to self and what is known to others, what is unknown to self and what is unknown to others. Let's personalise this a bit as we examine the meanings of the four panes, by referring the model to “me” as the prime actor.

In the Arena is information known to both myself and to others. It is freely available information. This information can be about my attitudes, values, feelings, hopes and fears, whatever is going on inside the person. It represents then a person who is in a sense an “open book” to others.

In the Blind Spot is information that the I am unaware of, but that others are aware of. In a communication setting this is most often about the impact I might be having on others. How others perceive me is quite critical to know if I want to be effective as, say, a manager. I need to know how others feel about me or I will likely make some of the blunders that Burns wrote of.

The Façade is the information that I know about myself but have not shared, or do not want to share, with others. This information could be as trivial as the fact that my underpants have holes in them or it could be as serious as the fact that I am dying of cancer. Most importantly it could be information like how I am responding to others in the communication context.

The Unknown or Unconscious quadrant has to do with information neither I nor others have about me. This is information which, while it might have profound effects on our communication, is not available to either myself or to others to work with. It is an area of mystery and, outside of a therapeutic relationship, is seldom consciously worked on.

The theory is that communication taking place in the “Arena” will be, in most circumstances, the best and most effective communication.

If the person initiating an interaction is congruent, empathetic and has unconditional positive regard for the other person, and is open to receiving communication based on the same principles from the other person, then the interaction is likely to take place through the “Arena”

In practise, when a person asks for and gives feedback the vertical and horizontal bars of the model are shifted, increasing the size of the “Arena” pane, facilitating open communication. At the same time the effect of moving the two bars actually decreases the sizes, not only of the “Blind Spot” and the “Façade”, but also of the “Unknown”.

This is because the person, by being open to receiving and to giving feedback, is becoming more sensitive to the unconscious. Those vague and sometimes frightening shadows that lurk in the unconscious are becoming more known, coming into the light of the mutual trust that grows with openness and honesty, with understanding and humility. Empathy is the key, and works best in a context in which there is congruence and unconditional positive regard.

Without going into details here there is a need to understand that openness of this kind is not always and in all situations appropriate. There are times when we need to defend ourselves, to close up, for our own well-being. The more open the “Arena” the greater the intimacy of communication which is not appropriate in all situations.

Audrey Hepburn gives a lesson in empathy

How to communicate empathy

“To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.” - Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon and Schuster, 1992).

“Do not come near; take off your sandals because the place you are standing is holy ground.” God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, Exodus 3: 5.

Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” So these aspects of communication are not playthings, and should be approached and used with humility and the intention of doing good, of providing mutual opportunities for growth.

If I use these skills simply as “techniques” to win over other people, or to bend them to my will, or to show my superiority, then I am not being empathetic, and I am forgetting that I am walking on holy ground. We should approach other people as Moses approached the burning bush, without sandals (protection or defences), and we should not come closer to them than they will allow.

Our use of empathy, to be real and honest, needs to be in the spirit of the Prayer of St Francis: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek be understood, as to understand; be loved, as to love.”

How to be empathetic involves firstly listening, listening not just to the words being spoken, but listening for what the reality is behind the words, what the other person's understanding is of the reality, what meaning the other person ascribes to what he or she perceives as the reality. It is listening without judgement, without any need to change the other person. It is listening with a completely unconditional positive regard.

Only about 7% to 10% of the full meaning of communication is conveyed by the words spoken. The balance is found in the myriad of non-verbal psychological cues which the speaking person gives while speaking. Being sensitive to those clues is what empathy is all about in relationships.

So communicating empathetically is not just the technique of reflecting back to the speaker what they say in words, it is struggling to put into words my understanding of the totality of their communication (their words and the other psychological cues I have picked up), and then allowing them to correct what I have understood. In Johari Window terms this is both disclosing (moving the horizontal bar of the Johari Window down) and asking for feedback on my disclosure (moving the vertical bar to the right).

Illustration by Eric Gill from "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark", 1933

Illustration by Eric Gill from "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark", 1933

Young/Old woman

Young/Old woman

Blind monks examining an elephant. Image from Wikipedia

Blind monks examining an elephant. Image from Wikipedia

Practical implications

On a very practical level the effort made to fully understand the other person's point of view or understanding of an issue is helpful in ensuring that decisions are made with the fullest possible information. At the very least the other person might have seen something that I didn't see, something which might have a major impact on decisions or the outcomes of decisions.

Shakespeare, in Hamlet, gave a very vivid illustration of the fact that we all perceive things very differently, and can become quite caught up in “our” way of seeing “reality”, a “reality” which might look veryn different to someone else.

HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in the shape of a camel?
POLONIUS: By th' mass, and 'tis like a camel indeed.
HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel.
POLONIUS: It is backt like a weasel.
HAMLET: Or like a whale?
POLONIUS: Very like a whale.

So, was that cloud like a camel, a weasel or a whale? Most likely it was all three, in a way similar to the two “realities” in the famous “old woman, young woman” ambiguous figure. Empathy, really applied to communication, would help us together build a full picture of reality, unlike the blind men who tried to describe the elephant they could not see, but only feel:

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen! - John Godfrey Saxe, "The Blind Men and the Elephant"

As Covey states: “Empathic listening takes time, but it doesn't take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back up and correct misunderstandings when you're already miles down the road, to redo, to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems, to deal with the results of not giving people psychological air.”


Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 24, 2011:

Sparkster - I thank sincerely for stopping by and commenting.

Love and peace


Marc Hubs from United Kingdom on April 19, 2011:

I can only hope that people actually take notice of this hub. In my hubs I write about people with little or no empathy so I found this quite interesting.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on March 24, 2011:

TKI - thanks so much. I am glad you found this Hub good!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving the great comment.

Love and peace


toknowinfo on March 22, 2011:

You really explain everything very well, as usual. Great hub, nicely put together and interesting. Rated up and awesome.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on January 03, 2011:

BB - thank you very much for those kind words!

Baileybear on January 02, 2011:

thanks, Tony - you are a lovely, genuine person too

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on January 02, 2011:

BB - I agree with you about the "no empathy" claim about Asperger's. It is indeed psychopaths who are truly anempathic, indeed it is the defining characteristic.

I look forward to your Hub on the subject of Asperger's and empathy.

I meant to comment on your Hub about "a day in the life of" that you and your son have the same gorgeous smile! It is just so beautiful. You are two lovely, lovely people. Wish I could meet you both in person.

Love and peace


Baileybear on January 02, 2011:

Yes, tony, I think I have picked up on empathy quite well, that I am trying to teach my son. I could always see when people were in pain, I just didn't know how to respond appropriately.

I find the 'no empathy' claim about Asperger's a bit extreme, as psychopaths are really the ones that have no empathy. Those with AS are not psychopaths!

Which reminds me, I need to comment in my notebook to write a hub about empathy and AS sometime soon.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on January 02, 2011:

BB - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I have heard that about people on the autism spectrum. Like any skill, empathy can, as you say, be learned. Obviously though certain people have more of an aptitude for it than others. I know some people who are very anempathic and because of that actually resist learning the skill. They don't see the point of it.

From your comments here and elsewhere I would say you have managed to more than "scrape by" - I think you do very well in terms of empathy. Sometimes those who comment back to you could learn a little empathy!

Love and peace


Baileybear on January 02, 2011:

I've read that those on the autism spectrum are thought to lack empathy (as lack ability to recognise and demonstrate appropriate social skills). It is a learned skill. My son, for instance, does not comprehend when someone is sad or angry - their tone of voice or body language. He's very bright intellectually, but has this invisible disability (which I do too, but managed to 'scrape by'.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on November 12, 2010:

Winsome - thanks for the comment. Imagine is such a great song, isn't it?

Love and peace


Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on November 09, 2010:

Unconditional Positive Regard--Imagine--the world would be as one. Thank you for a thoughtful read. =:)

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on September 27, 2010:

MG - thanks so much for the kind words. I do appreciate your visit and your comment very much.

Love and peace


Midtown Girl from Right where I want to be! on September 22, 2010:

What an amazing hub full of helpful information. The more people understand this concept, the better off humanity will be. Thank you for sharing a topic so important.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on August 16, 2010:

Tatjana - thanks for the kind words.

Stevie - thanks again to you!

Love and peace


Shinkicker from Scotland on August 16, 2010:

A very interesting read Tony. The world would be better served with more empathy and positive regard.

Thanks for the Hub

Tatjana-Mihaela from Zadar, CROATIA on August 03, 2010:

You are excellent teacher, Tony. I just can say one sentence - great Hub, as always. Thank you.

Love and peace

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on August 01, 2010:

Haha! Micky! I know you do, really.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace


Micky Dee on August 01, 2010:

You know Tony- I know just how you feel!

Some people say I'm apathetic.

To them I say-

I just don't care!

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 30, 2010:

Pete - thanks so much for the visit and the comment. And yes, that prayer is amazing, isn't it?

Love and peace


kirstein.peter53 from Maseru on July 30, 2010:

Nice one Tony. I just love St. Francis' prayer - it is my great desire to be the person he prays to be.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 30, 2010:

Rebecca - thank you so much. I really appreciate your kind words and actions! Empathy is indeed powerful in relationships.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace


Rebecca E. from Canada on July 30, 2010:

tony this is wonderful, t is something I am working on to be/show more empathy, and I think as a person it is a pwerful tool, to make another person beleive that they can be more than what they are, but also beleive that you aren't simply "saying it" Great hub. I am stumbling it and bookmarking it, and hope for traffic blessings to you.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 29, 2010:

Barbara - I like your questions and thoughts so much, really! I am so glad that you are finding this discussion worthwhile and I hope helpful. Empathy is exactly that - understanding, being able to appreciate, without necessarily agreeing or feeling the same way. It's indeed perfectly OK for you not to find hilarious what I find hilarious. Empathy means simply to accept that I do find something hilarious and not to judge for that, to feel OK with me laughing at something you don't find funny at all. The non-empathic response would be to say something like "What are you laughing at? It's not funny at all, it's just stupid!" The empathic response something like "I can see you find this hilarious. Would you like to tell me more about it?"

So thanks for your very thoughtful and helpful continuation of the discussion.



Barbara from Stepping past clutter on July 29, 2010:

tonymac, I read this carefully over breakfast actually. Late breakfast at that. I am reading a Wally Lamb novel that has me under its spell and I awake at 2am ready for more. This throws off my whole day, of course.

What relief I felt, discovering that it is okay to not be whole-ly engaged in someone else's appreciation for something without injuring that person. I felt- and here is a personal touch- that I was quite rude not laughing in your Tutu hub. I thought I should not have even said anything. After reading this empathy article with the care it deserves, I realize that it is okay to appreciate your appreciation without really appreciating it myself.

In other words, I wrote that believing you and I have a trust between us based on the knowledge that we like each other's approach to things. Whether or not we agree.

Perhaps that is presumptuous, but I sense this and rely on it when I make comments. It is not in the beyond beyond category, but merely trust, that thing which I find difficult with some but not with you.

Does this make sense without being gooney?

Thanks for helping me work this out. I would not want to insult you in any way nor cause you pause when it comes to our friendship.


Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 29, 2010:

GL - I think honesty is absolutely the essential in communication. Without it open communication is impossible. Heading over to your Hub on lying right now!

Shalini -thanks for your kind words. I totally agree with you on the importance of empathy and thanks for underlining this.

Barbara - trust is a funny old thing, indeed! It is one of those things that you can't develop separately - you have to trust to be able to trust. I know that sounds silly, and actually it's true. I can't know if I can trust you in the abstract - I have to trust you first and then I will know. So we develop trust in little steps - trust somebody with something small, if it works out we try again with something bigger, and so on. And that's why lying is so bad. I haven't read Green Lotus's piece yet but I guess she is writing something along those lines. Heading over there now. Hugs to you, dear friend!

Thanks all and forgive the delay in responding - a lot on my mind just now.

Love and peace


Barbara from Stepping past clutter on July 28, 2010:

So we trust the soul completely. This is a lesson I must learn. I have difficulty with trust. Perhaps this is because as Shalini says, it has been perverted by sympathy in my experience. I will read your hub again. There, I printed it for bedside reading.

Shalini Kagal from India on July 26, 2010:

Hi Tony - like I said in your last hub, this should be recommended reading. Unfortunately, a lot of people confuse empathy with sympathy which might mean being too involved emotionally and not impartial enough. You've set up the parameters for empathy so well. The world needs the sensitivity and the listening nature of empathy very much today!

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on July 26, 2010:

Tony this is one of the most meaningful Hubs I've read lately, not only because it is so clearly put and so well researched, but because it speaks to me at a time in my life when I need to understand more about empathy.

I consider myself to be an empathic person; however, I have had self-doubt about the effectiveness of my empathic behavior. Like lorlie, I am overwhelmed with opportunities to express my empathy to the point of madness, which is why I had to write about this recently myself, just to work it out. Your article; however, has made it all the more clear, especially when you point out that without honesty, there cannot be communication, and without honest communication empathic efforts are made all the more difficult. I'm still wrestling with this, but I thank you for clearing a path.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 26, 2010:

Aw Dimitris! Didn't mean to put you off. Please come back!

Christine - appreciate your feedback very much. Good points you make.

Martie - have already done one on that! And of course empathy plays a big part in dealing with prejudice.

Thanks all for your kind comments and your contributions to the discussion (I mean you too, Dimitris!).

Love and peace


Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 25, 2010:

Tony, ref empathy for the war-mongers and the racists. We realise that they are ignorant. They just can’t see the bigger picture; they don’t know what they are doing. Knowing this, one can have empathy for them. But we lack tolerance. We impatiently hope they gain some wisdom and insight. But will they? Considering the power of prejudice? Anyway, the topic of this awesome hub is empathy and I’m just taunting for one about prejudice.

Christine Mulberry on July 25, 2010:

Ah the blind spot has been the undoing of many of us! I love the way these models explain exactly what happens. An open, caring, empathetic listener does so much to open us up. We need these skills for life and certainly in marriage. Wonderful lesson.

De Greek from UK on July 24, 2010:

Then I hang my head in shame and shuffle off back to my basket....:-))))))

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 24, 2010:

Sally - it is indeed sad that so many find it very difficult to ask for or to give feedback. As you say, in those cases the blind spot and facade become very large and the possibility of honest and open communication much dimished.

Dimitris - I appreciate your comment and think you might have missed the point of the Darryl Cross vid a little. Firstly he is not saying he is an executive, but that he works as an executive coach, which is a sub-discipline within the coaching profession. Secondly the research he mentions is just to reinforce the fact that interpersonal skills are most important contributers to career success. I don't think he would refuse to coach a groiup of children, but this is not coaching in the sense of sports or fitness coaching, but in the sense of life coaching. Quite a different profession about which I have a Hub. And there are several other coaches on HubPages. Hope this clears this up for you!

Amillar - this is not about the "gift of the gab", as you put it! In fact it is almost the direct opposite of the "gift of the gab" - it is the ability to communicate openly and honestly at a very deep level by giving and receiving feedback. Not an easy thing to do and certainly not "flanneling" anyone of anything!

Maxine - it is difficult to have empathy for the war-mongers and the racists. I struggle with that myself very much and yet it is something that will in the end make a huge difference. I had the tremendous privilege of seeing Carl Rogers in a workshop in Johannesburg in the mid-80s when things were hideous in South Africa and he was able to get close to young black activists and older white conservatives in the most amazing way. It was awesome to see him put the core conditions into practice in such a tense and fraught situation.

Ruby - nurses in my experience are wonderfully empathetic, though I know there must be exceptions. To deal with the situations they deal with daily sympathy is not really an option and empathy is the only way to go.

Francis - big question indeed! The fear that many have about empathy is definitely the fear of being vulnerable, and yet in the end our real strength as people is found precisely there, when we admit to our vulnerability and drop the pretense of invulnerability. Good observation!

Barbara - it is only soul when it is genuine, and as I think I wrote here the use of empathy in a shallow and manipulative way is to destroy, not to grow.

LT - indeed those words are very impactful and not easy to do. We all struggle, I think, but the struggle is worthwhiole.

Laurel - you words make it so worthwhile to have spent the time and energy doing this Hub.

Everyone - you have each of you contributed something worthwhile and interesting to this Hub, and I thank you all sincerely for that.

Love and peace


Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on July 24, 2010:

Tony-sometimes I wonder if empathy can almost be a personal flaw. I spent most of my life so immersed in my concern for others that I often forgot myself. But that is my belief system, and at 53 I have come to admire that part of myself. Much of my inner life revolves around the creatures of God, and I am not ashamed of that at all. St. Francis is one of my 'role models.'

This hub is fabulous, my friend. Thank you for the beautifully written hub-no, the instruction!

ltfawkes from NE Ohio on July 24, 2010:

What a great topic, and you investigated it beautifully. I really like the Robert Burns quote, and this definition:

the ability to enter, by a willed use of the imagination, another person's world without judgement.

Without judgement. What a wallop those two words pack.

Thanks for making me think.


Barbara from Stepping past clutter on July 23, 2010:

Fascinating discussion. Thank you, Tonymac. I wonder, if it is soul, does this mean it is right? Is there an occasion where soul opposes soul? Could it be claimed soul speak when it isn't? I am only wondering, as I do... Hugs my friend, and good night! B

equealla from Pretoria, South Africa on July 23, 2010:

Tony this is a very informative hub bringing empathy and communication into a parallel with each other. Many a time we are able to feel an empathy, but do not find the sufficient words to convey the message. I have found this very informative and can use it as a guidance.

Talking about the holy ground, nellieanna has expressed in one of her hubs the vulnerability of the writer when opening part of the soul in writing. This, I think will contract all writers in a small circle of universal empathy. It only leaves a person so vulnerable, and the question is, will the reader always be able to appreciate the reflections of the soul. Big Question!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 23, 2010:

I know you put a lot of work into this well written hub.

When i was in nursing training, we were taught to have empathy but not sympathy. I found it difficult to not have sympathy, but it was best not to, once when a patient passed away, i cried, and my instructor got upset with me, after being in the field for a time, i learned to be stronger, every person in the world needs to read this.

Thank,s for writing this hub

jandee from Liverpool.U.K on July 23, 2010:

Hi Tony, a very thought provoking piece `I always thought I had a big chunk of empathy but the way you present it I am no longer sure ! I don't suppose one can pick and choose I mean imagine having to feel empathy to certain war-mongers.....afraid I'm not so pure,m

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on July 23, 2010:

Just had to make another comment regarding DG's comment.

The Darryl video is a bit of pablum, thrown out there to ease the digestion. But it's not worthless. You can have all the tech skills to resolve a problem but if you are on the hot seat of explaining why the resolution of a problem is to your client's benefit, and you can't get your point across because you lack communications skills (whether they be a difference of language or a blockage caused by your ego and therefore an inability to identify with the client), then you are in hot water.

Darryl's points are right may have the technical solution to a problem, but if you don't have a way of delivering it (empathetic understanding), then your efforts are wasted.

amillar from Scotland, UK on July 23, 2010:

Tony, if your 'interpersonal and communication skills' are good enough, you could flannel your way through anything; I've come across people who don't even need the 12% of technical and knowledge skills. Some have the 'the gift of the gab'. People who don't have these skills must wonder where things are going so wrong.

De Greek from UK on July 23, 2010:

Brother Tony, again I shall rock the boat of your wonderful hub, because of a detail.

I have no EMPATHY for Darryl Cross. I started his video clip willing to feel all the empathy in the world, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he lost me.

"I work as an executive..."

what a pompous thing to say. I can register a company for a thousand dollars and call myself an executive. Technically I become an executive, but am I one truly?

".... and personal coach"

No kidding? So he will not coach a group of children, FOR EXAMPLE, who might pass along and need his wisdom, because he is a PERSONAL coach and he has NO EMPATHY for them.

And he proceeds to give someone else's research as if it is the wisdom of the ages. But any real EXECUTIVE who has invested in any business will know the truth of what he is being said, WITHOUT any research, because he will know that in order to implement a great idea, he does not really have to have technical knowledge, as he can buy any know-how he needs.

In other words, I got bogged down in details again, but I cannot help it. It happens to me every time I come across the Darryl Crosses of this world who preach what they do not truly have an EMPATHY for, and by giving themselves impressive titles mislead kind and compassionate people full of EMPATHY, into believing that they are genuine :-)

SORRY TONY!!! :-))

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on July 23, 2010:

I couldn't help but think about what happens to the Arena when asking for and giving feedback are denied rather than encouraged. At some point the Arena would be swallowed into the Blind Spot, Facade, and Unknown Self. I fear too many find themselves in that diminished state too often.

Thanks for a morning read that just happens to touch on a few things I've been thinking lately about how family relationships are impaired by an enduring refusal to ask for and give feedback.

Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on July 22, 2010:

Lilly - yes empathy has different levels and applications. At one level it is definitely a learnable skill.

Mentalist - empathy is always beneficial and a recognition of the essential "holiness" of every person.

Sandy - thank you for the compliment.

Barbara - thank you my dear friend, and I trust you got rid of the toxic stuff safely!

Martie - thank you. The Rogers quote is really great, isn't it? Thanks for the kind words.

Neil - thank you. Empathy is indeed a deep experience and opens us up to all sorts of wonders.

Gerry - to be sure you are welcome. Appreciate your visit and kind comment.

Thanks again everyone for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it very much.

Love and peace


sligobay from east of the equator on July 22, 2010:

Tony- I read hubs but rarely comment. Empathy is such a difficult concept for many to grasp. Your article has served to elucidate and articulate this component of the commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Empathy is the lynchpin of success of everything from 'group therapy' to self-help Twelve Step programs and fellowships from Alcoholics Anonymous to Overeaters Anonymous, etc. Thank you for your work.

Neil Sperling from Port Dover Ontario Canada on July 22, 2010:

Bookmarked and voted up - excellently researched and written. Too few develop an awareness of others and this HUB gives anyone who desires to increase his "empathy" a fresh and realistic overview. Analysis aside, increased Empathy can become a unique spiritual experience where one actually attunes to another. Well done - Thanks!

Martie Coetser from South Africa on July 22, 2010:

Tony, I’ve bookmarked this one. Such a relevant topic! Thoroughly covered and illustrated by you. Human beings are, indeed, precious, and we – me – should keep this always in mind, especially in the rat races when we are stressed and annoyed. This quote is so true: “...deep understanding is, I believe, the most precious gift one can give to another.” - Carl Rogers

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on July 22, 2010:

I will need to return to this packed hub. Now I know where you have been for the past several days. This is fully formed.

To be an empathetic friend yet a respectful one who listens and understands what another is feeling even if it isn't what I am feeling. This is a striving.

More back at you later. I need to go dump toxic waste for my mother in law who closes on her house today... yes, yes, yes, I will dispose of it correctly! We have hazardous waste management sites, lol.

Hugs, Barbara

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on July 22, 2010:

Nice hub on empathy in context.

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on July 22, 2010:

There's empathy in a casual context that I give to everybody and to empathise on a higher plane even holier than love a person has to have the ability to be psycologicaly accepting of just how different and alike the empathic connection can be;)

Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on July 22, 2010:

"And that it is what he terms a “social emotion,” an emotion that is found in a social context where the lack of it is clearly, in his view, a threat to society." (like)

Thank you! Recently I asked the question; "Can Empathy be learned, or is it a natural born trait?" From your well stated hub article, I understand there are different levels and means of and to attaining empathy.

Related Articles