Communications 203 B
Empathy is the act of communicating to our fellow human beings that we understand how they are feeling and what makes them feel that way (Hogan, 1969). As American psychologist Carl Rogers says in his book A Way of Being (1980):
An empathic way of being with another person has several facets. It means entering the private perceptual world of the other, and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever he or she is experiencing. It means temporarily living in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without making judgments; it means sensing meanings of which he or she is scarcely aware, but not trying to uncover totally unconscious feelings, since this would be too threatening. It includes communicating your sensing of the person’s world as you look with fresh and unfrightened eyes at the elements of which he or she is fearful. It means frequently checking with the person as to the accuracy of your sensing, and being guided by the responses you receive. You are a confident companion to the person in his or her inner world. By pointing to the possible meanings in the flow of another person’s experiencing, you help the other to focus on this useful type of referent, to experience the meanings more fully, and to move forward in the experiencing.
A synonym for empathy is communicated understanding. When we are convinced that others fully understand us, without judging us for how we are feeling, questioning why we are reacting that way, or advising us to feel differently, we experience a wonderful sense of acceptance. The process of empathy involves the unconditional acceptance of the individual in need of help; judgments and evaluation of feelings are never offered (Pike, 1990).
This nonjudgmental reception by our fellow human beings is...