Cognitive Empathy, Compassionate Empathy, Emotional Empathy, Empathy, Three Types of Empathy

Three Types of Empathy You Should Know About

Cognitive Empathy, Compassionate Empathy, Emotional Empathy, Empathy, Three Types of Empathy

By Starla

January 28, 2020

Let's begin with the definition of leadership:

LEADERSHIP: the harnessing of social influence to maximize the efforts of others toward the achievement of a shared goal your text here...

To lead others effectively with social influence, here's what you need to know...

To positively influence the thoughts & behaviors of others so that their actions are in alignment with what you and your organization need to accomplish, empathy is critical. Without it, positively influencing others and moving them into positive action will always be an uphill battle.

There are three types of empathy that the most effective leaders bring to the table when leading others...

Cognitive Empathy

employing thought and intellect to better understand and comprehend – on an intellectual level – how others are thinking and feeling.



This is all about learning to use the power of observation and critical thinking to better understand the perspective of others (how they might be feeling and what they might be thinking).

You can gain this insight by seeking to identify the answers to the following questions

(Remember to resist the urge to assume everyone's answers will be the same as yours. Emotionally intelligent individuals know that everyone around them is operating with a unique combination core values, belief systems, and interaction styles that heavily influence how they're perceiving and reacting to the world around them. You goal is to identify the answers that are true for them.)

  • What are they thinking about? What consumes their thoughts?
  • What are their priorities? What really matters to them? What are they always driving towards? (CORE VALUES)
  • What is it that they want or need most right now?
  • What makes them feel comfortable, safe, and at ease?
  • What makes them feel important?
  • What are their fears? What are they trying to avoid or protect against?
  • What do they consider to be painful that they might be trying to avoid right now?
  • How do they prefer to interact with the world? (PREFERRED BEHAVIORAL & COMMUNICATION STYLE)
  • How would they prefer that the world interact with them?
  • What beliefs do they have about themselves? (BELIEF SYSTEM)
  • What beliefs do they have about others?
  • What is their worldview?

Then, consider how the insight gained from asking the questions above might be influencing...

  • the IMPACT the current situation might be having on them,
  • their REACTION to it as well as their EMOTIONAL STATE as a result of it, and
  • their DECISION-MAKING as to how they're CHOOSING TO RESPOND it.

Emotional Empathy

physically feeling the emotions another person is experiencing to better relate and build an emotional connection.


(physical sensation)

If you're not empathetic by nature, you CAN develop this type of empathy BUT NOT WITHOUT conscious thought and intentionality. It's not easy, but it can be done. You have to choose to work diligently to improve in this area.

This is all about learning to sense within yourself what another person is feeling and then to feel those emotions with them. You can do this by:

  • remembering how you felt when you were in a similar situation – or –
  • considering how you would feel if you found yourself in a similar situation– or –
  • simply seeing the situation from their perspective, appreciating their emotional response for what it is, and choosing to identify with those feelings the best you can.

Compassionate Empathy

powerfully combining Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy to show appropriate concern



This is a choice. Either you will or you won't engage in Compassionate Empathy.

Choose to use your HEAD (to understand why) and your HEART (to care enough) to take ACTION and respond in ways that positively impact others. Do this by asking yourself...

"Now that I better understand HOW they're feeling and WHY they are thinking & behaving in the ways that they are, how can I use this awareness and insight to be much more thoughtful with how I choose to communicate and interact with them so that I elicit the positive response I seek while also ensuring that they feel important, comfortable, and respected?"

Like most skills, empathy can be learned and honed over time. But it won't happen without thoughtful decision-making and disciplined, on-going practice. There's no Empathy Fairy who will magically appear one night and make you more empathetic with a single tap of her wand. Sadly, it doesn't work like that. But no worries...with disciplined, ongoing practice you can acquire and strengthen this skill on your own. Get after it!

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