How to use empathy effectively

Many marriages are breaking down today because of the inability to handle stress, and the inability to comfort and encourage each other in difficult times.

God has actually called you to be your spouse’s comforter and empathy is one of the crucial elements of comfort. Master empathy and you are well on your way to creating a home environment that you look forward to going back to.

How does empathy work?

Empathy comes from two Latin words, ‘em’ and ‘pathos’. It literally means feeling into something; it refers to wearing someone else’s shoes. Showing empathy is one of the quickest ways to connect with someone on an emotional level.

Emotional intimacy is not something that just happens. It is something that must be purposefully created one conversation at a time.

There are three types of empathy

  1. Emotional empathy – manifests itself as ‘I feel you’.

  2. Cognitive empathy – manifests itself as ‘I get you’. It means you understand your spouse, although you may not necessarily agree with them.

  3. Empathic concern – manifests itself as ‘I am here for you’.

When you comfort and encourage your spouse you need to display all three types of empathy.

For example, on one occasion my wife was not feeling well. When she told me she was not feeling well, I assured her that I would take care of dinner as well as the children. I was showing her empathic concern. However, a few hours later she said, ”My love I’m not too sure if you understand how I am really feeling.” I, of course, became defensive and said, “Of course I understand how you are feeling, that’s why I’ve been doing all this.” I quickly realised that she felt this way because I had only shown her empathic concern. I needed to demonstrate emotional empathy as well.

This may all seem daunting to you, however, when you decide to learn how to comfort your spouse, God graciously gives you the resources you need.

I want to encourage you to ask your spouse how they like to be comforted. Then go deeper and find out what type of empathy they appreciate most.