Brené Brown on Empathy


(GASPS) So, what is empathy and why is it
VERY different than sympathy? Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection. It’s very interesting. Theresa Wiseman is a nursing scholar who studied very diverse professions
where empathy is relevant and came up with
four qualities of empathy. Perspective taking – ability to take
the perspective of another person, or recognise their perspective
as their truth. Staying out of judgment – not easy when you enjoy it
as much as most of us do. (AUDIENCE CHUCKLES) Recognising emotion in other people,
then communicating that. Empathy is feeling WITH people. I always think of empathy
as this kind of sacred space. When someone’s in a deep hole
and they shout from the bottom… ..And we look and we say, “Hey!”
And climb down… Sympathy is, “Ooh!”
(LAUGHTER) “It’s bad, uh-huh?”
(LAUGHTER) “Uh… No. You want a sandwich?” Empathy is a choice
and it’s a vulnerable choice. In order to connect with you, I have to connect with something
in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, does an empathic
response begin with, “At least…” (LAUGHTER) Yeah. And we do it all the time
because, you know what? Someone shared something with us
that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying
to “silver lining” it. I don’t think that’s a verb,
but I’m using it as one. We’re trying to put a silver lining
around it. So, “I had a miscarriage.” “At least you know
you can get pregnant.” “I think my marriage
is falling apart.” “At least you have a marriage.” (LAUGHTER) “John’s getting kicked out
of school.” “At least Sarah is an A-student.” One of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult
conversations is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that’s
very difficult, I’d rather you say, “I don’t even know what to say.
I’m just so glad you told me.” Because the truth is, rarely can
a response make something better. What makes something better
is connection.

100 thoughts on “Brené Brown on Empathy

  1. I just showed this video to my high school Psychology students and I could tell it really made an impact, it really got them thinking. What a beautiful video!

  2. A message to me of the past from me of the future.
    This video is bad.
    This is not documenting the differences between sympathetic and empathetic people. The narrator says themselves that acting empathetic is a choice. This is documenting a bad way to comfort someone (guilt tripping) vs. one of many good ways to comfort someone.
    This video isn't saying you're a monster. You're not a monster. You didn't know better.
    This video doesn't hurt because you're an unfeeling emotional being, it hurts because you're hyperempathetic and hypersensitive. You ARE empathetic. You are NOT a monster. The emotions you feel towards other people are just too strong for you to handle & communicate. You just didn't know better. Now you do. It's okay.

  3. One of the most important lessons around. First saw it 4 years ago, I've kept coming back to it whenever I had a Situation. Empathy: "it's a vulnerable choice" – so very true.
    Thank you so much for this video!

  4. i always thought that sympathy was empathy ( sympatico )

    the sympathy modeled in this skit sounds more like indifference disguised as tough love or a diversion from feeling to keep the real feelings at bay , to hide and mask the real underlying feelings because of ignorance and then laziness too, it’s like not wanting to see someone be vulnerable cuz they themselves are not comfortable being vulnerable

    it seems like the tactic used by the so called sympathetic person in this skit ( the deer ) is just a ploy to avoid facing real hurt and suffering

    i think one fear of feeling vulnerable is because people fear helplessness

    people fear being weak

    the fear of being weak causes many people to go into power modes

    even this evasive tactic of the tough love “no sympathy “ person is a power and control move ….

    i like what is being said about making a connection by being understanding and embracing the other person who is suffering from their emotional wound

    in the world we live in today there is such a lot of push towards being a winner and being on top of the world with empowered success which can cause people to not want to even let others know when they are hurting so they mask their sadness with false enthusiasm and gulp back their tears to maintain their composure

    i also don’t know that judging others is really a pleasure ( i guess it can be a dark pleasure )
    yet when we judge others we know we are also judging ourselves thus there is always a bit of a creepy feeling when we judge others

    i think many of us avoid saying how we really feel to our detriment

    i bet part of the reason for this avoidance is fear of judgment and another part is fear of having an argument

    having an argument means being out of control

    being out of control is scary

    it is the unknown

    the unknown territory of i don’t know

  5. Isn' t it self defeating when one differentiates between sympathy and empathy to a judgemental level. This will really push "empathy" to a stage where eventually it becomes the most loathed and hated feeling.

    Have some "empathy" for "sympathy" and don't equate it with "apathy". Behaviour can be corrected, give the benefit of the doubt to another and show how "empathy helps build resolve in an individual rather than break it".

  6. THIS VIDEO shows the difference between AVERAGE people with only a LITTLE love in their heart and the people whose hearts are willing to OPEN UP and work with those around them on more than a SIMPLY LOGICAL OR RATIONAL level. It is EASY to point out FLAWS and SOLUTIONS —— BUT the SECRET —— to TRULY HELPING people and getting them to CHANGE their life is to work with them from the inside out with their feelings and their emotions and by directing them toward the goal of living their life to HELP OTHERS. — GIVING QUICK PHYSICAL ANSWERS DO NOTHING TO SOLVE SPIRITUAL OR EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS INSIDE PEOPLE BUT THEY DEFINITELY DO A GREAT JOB AT PUTTING OTHERS INTO AN EVEN DEEPER PIT OF ISSUES. Jesus Christ judges people HARSHLY when they go over the line, but he also works with people patiently and lovingly when they are headed down the narrow path of love and righteousness. THOSE WHO DO NOT FOCUS ON SHOWING COMPASSION ON OTHERS DAILY WILL REGRET IT ALL WHEN JESUS COMES TO JUDGE THE WORLD.

  7. So what my depressed ass took from this is the line: "the truth is: rarely can a response make something better"
    True, nothing anyone says could ever make me feel better.

  8. 💛 Yes, this video – 10000000%. 💛 Just stop, shut up, stop judging/being judgemental and listen. Be there for someone else, put yourself in their shoes, & feel what they feel without harming yourself or loosing yourself in it in the process. What helps people who are suffering is not glib advice, but knowing that someone is there with them. They can work it out when they feel better, when they feel less alone now that you’ve been kind to them – that’s part of their agency & auntonomy & right to do whatever they want with their own dang lives. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Brené Brown. From a life-long bear. May we all understand & practice the bear’s wisdom & compassion one day. 💛

  9. ive tried so hard to explain it

    but i finally understand watching this video, and found a good easy wayh to explain it. thank u brene

  10. Well I lack empathy because i really don't care what other people are going through and cannot share those feelings … I just yet feel nothing … I am nice to people because I know it is the right thing , but I honestly don't care

  11. What a beautiful story of what's missing in #sympathy. #empathy is feeling WITH people. Without judgement, that's another biggie. When people struggle to know what to say, this is appropriate. "I won't even pretend to know what you're going through but I'm so glad that you told me. You're not alone."

  12. I remember watching this in 2014, trying to overcome my social ineptitude, my lack of interest in developing strong relationships and mainly my introvert behavior.

    And wow… it has been a trip

    Even thou i still have problems, specially with getting a girlfriend, i have improved a lot and now i'm able to connect with people in less than 15 minutes while developing a strong and meaningful bond.

    I am grateful, i was surfing youtube when i stumbled with this video.

    Thank you Dr Brene Brown and thank RSA for your animation.

  13. Thank you Anthony this is how I see it… See your pain with Sympathy feel your pain with Empathy. I don't think Sympathy drives people away, its just not connecting on a level that they might need.

  14. Sym–same, path–feel. Sympathy gets a bad rap. It means to feel the same as, not the "sorry for" people have turned it into and not the invalidating responses by the deer.

  15. This is really cute
    And studying those who were feeling bad and changed is a great start
    Like when my friend was stressed over their car crash i didnt say, oh i understand
    I changed the way they thought about it by changing myself to the state they wanted and staying there, while talking about the little things we could do
    Both focusing them on what can be done, and changing the giant ass pictures in their head to something less intense
    Learn what works for many people, and know when you need to do something.. anything else

  16. Thanks for this. Got introduced to Brene through a friend and this really made sense to me. I was a post-graduate social work student and somewhere down the line since 1998, I guess, I forgot all about empathy. Many a times, I'm told that I don't listen, and I didn't know what I should do. This bit on empathy has put things into perspective for me. I could see where I was going wrong and what I could've done in the place of handing over a sandwich. Thanks so much!

  17. Empathy is really a choice indeed.
    Some people simply couldn’t hold back and keep talking, but I do think that listening to what others said is truly important.
    It is tiring to connect to my bad and heavy memories in order to feel what others feel.
    That’s why I treasure those who are willing to listen and put themselves in the others shoes.
    There are less and less people who choose empathy in the society nowadays, which is quite pathetic.

  18. I just got dumped by a girl i love because i dont have empathy. I'm watching this video while asking for a forgive from her. Wish me luck guys

  19. Yeah, but the thing is that we shouldn't have both, it must be either empathy or sympathy; because one of them is fake, and one is real… So, be real people and chose who you are, sympathy or empathy. While I was in emigration, my childhood friend, one of the best friend died in a car crash. When I heard that tragedy, My heart got frozen, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I never called his family to give sympathy because I wasn't able to provide them with empathy. Since then I have never gone back to my home place. But when I go there, I will give them a powerful hug without words, and that will be my empathy. No matter what psychologists call things, and peoples emotions, but empathy and sympathy should have the same roots. So, be real, if you really don't feel it is not nesssesery to be sympathetic.

  20. Empathy is being able to have a connection with someone or understand what a person is going through. It's being able to share a deep feeling with someone. It is the ability of a person to imagine himself/herself in the situation of another person, including their emotions, ideas, or opinions. Whereas sympathy is seeing some else's pain but not being able to relate or understand. You just notice it. A lot of people don't understand the difference between the two and often confuse them when comforting someone. They don't understand what the power of words can have on a vulnerable person.

  21. "Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection."….. so bloody true.

  22. Actually these are the emphatic people who let us feel the pain without giving advice at first and treat us as a normal person.

  23. This video just made me realize what a real friend is suppose to look like. Not like the goat eating the sandwich!

  24. For Ms Brown, and the vast majority of commenters, some clarity based on actual definition:

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/sympathy-empathy-difference

    The rest is mostly value judgements, problem solving, minimization, and narcissistic self-comfort, with a sprinkling of apathy.

  25. Great video & beautifully produced – HOWEVER, I can't help but feel you've recast both Empathy (as real listening) and Sympathy (as selfish/shallow listening) in a way that suits and nice vehicle for the animation – you've exaggerated and caricatured the common interpretation of both words . The generally accepted difference between the two is that EMPATHY is based on an experience you have have experinced, whereas SYMPATHY is only based on an estimation of another person's feelings.

  26. I understand that empathy is such a profound and meaningful thing but in some cases sympathy can be helpful too as it sways someone to look at the bright side or at the solution. Maybe not as good as empathy but sympathy is not so bad.

  27. I think empathy is important and useful but this video gives terrible short shrift to sympathy. Sympathy when given with openness and generosity can be brilliantly helpful and it's worth remembering two important limitations of empathy. 1. You might not have an analogous event in your history to connect to the person that is struggling. If you cannot properly emulate their feelings due to this attempted empathy could lead to misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Also if you empathise and for you the thing that concerned them was not hard for you to deal with, your focus on your feeling can distract from supporting them, whereas they need you to be there for them and what they are reporting to be finding hard. If identity politics has pointed out one thing we should all be able to agree with is that we will never be able to know what if feels like to be anyone else other than ourselves, pretending otherwise can be very dangerous 2. You have to maintain your own mental state too. If you empathise too much with too many people you will potentially be exhausting your emotional reserves simulating the pain and suffering of those around you in order to connect with them on their level only to find yourself now in need of someone to empathise with you. A genuine and focused sympathetic response that does nothing to minimise or invalidate the troubles of the person can achieve helping them feel heard and loved but also avoid pulling you into the same pain. We do not solve other peoples depression by creating our own. We need methods to have win-wins for emotional support. Empathy cannot do this alone.

  28. The big challenge in our bitterly divided world is how to develop empathy. Learn how you can develop it in your community https://www.icaf.org/childart/ChildArt_Q2_2019_preview.pdf

  29. Yeah but following her logic you end up with 2 people's stuck in an whole who can't get out and the one outside is trying to get them out.

  30. very clear for me as English my second language. I really benefited and more confidence in the information that I want to present.
    thanks to my instructor as letting me know about you. a bunch of thanks for the way of explaining

  31. Perfection. So articulate about grief. The 'at least' comments after we lost our baby, the 'at least' comments after my father died, and the 'don't give up!' preaching to us has been out of control over many years of infertility, pregnancy loss, adoption failure and birth mother scams has shown us who our real friends/family are. What I always tell people is when someone is grieving there are only three types of things to say – it's f*cked, it sucks, and it's not fair. Then tell them you love and support them. Period. Don't ask them what you can do as it forces someone in a fragile state to help you feel better. Simply be there. Don't ghost them because you don't know what to do. Don't minimize it with a 'silver lining' as Brene said. You're not being helpful. How hard is it to just tell someone you support them without bringing your own stuff into it?

  32. Too much empathy alone can be a vicious downward cycle and create learned helplessness / victimhood. We need to add compassion i.e understanding their plight from their perspective, feeling it momentarily, then helping them get out of the hole – otherwise both of you end up in a hole 🙁

  33. Brene is the best, and she speaks so beautifully on empathy. She's an inspiration for my empathy/mental health podcast: https://nonwels.com/you-me-empathy

  34. Can someone explain why the bear smiles when he too is experiencing dark pouring clouds of sadness? I think we're encountering two very different definitions of empathy. 1. Feeling exactly the same feelings as someone else. 2. Saying "Hey I've been there." or "I don't know what to say. That's awful." or other platitudes.

  35. This is the best video that explains what empathy is I have ever come across by far! it's right on point yet adding a bit of humor to it and the animation is nicely done too! Love it! 🙂

  36. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/sympathy-empathy-difference According to Webster…she has it completely backwards

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