Definition aspects of empathy Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 5 June 2017

Definition aspects of empathy

When empathy is defined cognitively, the construct of sympathy is found to be similar to a traditional measure used for studying the interpersonal sensitivity or perception of a person. This translates to a highly empathic person being skilled at decoding cues related to another’s feelings or behaviour and hence is accurate in predicting another’s feelings or behaviour. This in turn translates to the ability to infer the target individual’s thoughts, feelings and personality characteristics from a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues.

Hence this definition and measurement has important applications in areas of processes involving social influences such as teacher-student, physical-patient relationships. Another definition moves beyond the understanding of another person’s emotional state or situation. It emphasises on the vicarious emotional reaction that is occur in the observer as a result of understanding the emotional state of the other individual. Here empathy is a state of emotional arousal that comes from the apprehension or comprehension of another’s affective emotional state.

For example, if an individual observes another person who is sad and then feels sad themselves, then the person is experiencing empathy. This can also be translated in case the individual’s emotion is positive and the observer feels similarly positive. Empathy can be experienced over a wide range of emotions. (Randall, et al, 2001) Major Components of Empathy Although there are various definitions for empathy, it is widely accepted that there are three primary components. The components can be listed as follows: (i) an affective response to another person, often involving sharing of the person’s emotional state;

(ii) a cognitive capacity to understand and take the perspective of another person; and (iii) regulation of emotion. According to Hoffman, empathy is largely involuntary response to affective emotional cues from the other person. Batson et al (1997) associate empathy with intentional role taking ability which taps into the cognitive resources. These two different aspects of empathy takes into affect depending on how empathy is triggered. Depending on the trigger the behaviour of the observer is automatically mimics the expressions of other, which is the bottom-up processing.

Top-down processing happens when the observer uses his or her capacity for imaginative transposing of oneself into the thinking and the feeling of the subject. Both the aspects of empathy are involved differentially depending on the situation. (Decety, et al , 2006) Empathy and Its Use in Health Industry In the recent years, it has been found that empathetic communication enhances the therapeutic effectiveness in a clinician- patient relationship. It also helps in increasing the effectiveness of gathering information in the clinical interviewing process. In medical care, empathy improves the communication and provides several advantages.

Some of these advantages are improved health for the patients, better patient compliance, reduction in risk in terms of medical legal aspects, and improved satisfaction among the clinicians. Empathy is the key element that enables better communication. Frederic Platt devised a set of key steps to effective empathy. This includes the following aspects i. Recognising the presence of strong feeling like fear, anger, grief, disappointment and other’s emotions in the clinical settings; ii. Pausing to imagine how the patient might be feeling at a particular point of time; iii. Stating the perception of the feelings of the patient.

Examples of such statements are “I can imagine that must be like.. ” or “It sounds like you are upset about …” iv. Legitimising the feeling of the patient; v. Respecting the patient’s effort to cope with the discomforts and issues; vi. Offering support and partnership for solving the predicaments. This could be expressed in statements such as “I am committed to work with you to…” or Let’s see how we can solve this together. ” For other areas such as psychiatrists or mental health personnel, it is important to be aware of the opportunities for empathy when they arise during the interview with the patients.

Here it may not be important for empathetic communication as such. The opportunity of empathy arises from the patient’s emotion. This emotion may be directly expressed or implied by the patient. When this emotion is expressed, it provides and opportunity for the physician to respond empathetically. Wendy Levinson studied the frequency of empathy opportunities with over 116 office visits to primary care and surgical physicians. In more than half of the cases, it was found that the patients presented the clues in subtle ways, not overtly.

In just 38 percent of the surgical cases and in 21 percent of the primary care cases, the physicians responded to the clues. In other cases, the physicians missed the opportunity for empathy. It is usually possible to find medical clues in the fabric of the discussions about the medical problems. If the physician is busy attending to the biomedical details of diagnosis, then they are likely to miss the opportunity for empathy. Most of the times, the patients are likely to provide the opportunities again, and in some cases multiple times.

Once the empathy opportunity is found by the physician, it is essential for the physician to offer a gesture or statement of empathy. The statements of empathy can be categorized into different groups. The key groups are queries, clarifications and responses. Examples of queries can be similar to the questions such as “can you tell me more about that? ”, “what has this been like for you”, “how has all of this made you feel? ”. Clarifications can have the following forms: “Let me see if I have got this right.. ” “Tell me more about …” “I want to make sure I understood what you have said”.

Responses have the following forms: “Sounds like you are .. ” “I imagine that you must be.. ” “I can understand, that must make you feel …” In most of the cases, the patients express agreement to the statements and confirm the feeling. In case the physician has not understood the patient’s experience exactly, then they can use Hypothesis-Test –Feedback Loop. It allows the patient to clarify their experience and also allows the physician to clarify his or her experience. This allows the physician to reinstate the empathetic statement that was missed in the earlier attempt.

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