Brené Brown on Empathy


Watch the video below!


Can you think of times in your own life when you were practicing sympathy instead of empathy?


  • In your interactions with others this week, try practicing all four qualities of empathy identified in the video.
  • Remove “at least” from your vocabulary.

13 thoughts on “Brené Brown on Empathy

  1. I like this. I am a little skeptical of empathy, as it can distract us from the work we need to do to “stop the rain” (using the video metaphor). The pain of deeply truly feeling something someone else is feeling may actually prevent us from doing anything at all. It is indeed true that often times there is nothing we can do for that person ‘s pain in that particular moment. But rarely is there NOTHING we can do to prevent someone else from feeling that pain in the future. (Eg., giving a hungry person some leftovers on the street vs. giving to our local non-profits who try to make it easier for someone to get a job to feed themselves)

  2. I have seen this great little video before and boy is it hard not to try to “cheer up” someone – especially if you are a positive person or see the other person as waiting for this type of response. Always good to practice thank you the empathy check. I also find the physical response (a touch on the shoulder, arm or hand) can sometimes not be welcoming to people of differing cultures or genders so the acknowledgement that comes by a physical demonstration has to be invited.

  3. This is good to really visualize the difference between sympathy and empathy. It’s a good reminder of what not to say….. hearing it on the video makes it sound so dismissive “at least”. It takes a lot of energy to be empathetic and for myself, in this day and age, sometimes I feel as if I don’t have the time to take the time.

  4. Hugs ARE the answer! I knew it! Sometimes words fail and the presence of a compassionate ear is all people need. Time as you say Sherrie – we have to slow down and take time to listen and understand.

    1. Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast. (Shakespeare) When we slow down, we take more in, and the experience is thus enriched because we are more aware of our surroundings and how they may impact us…

  5. ‘at least’, ‘it could’ve been worse’….I was born a natural ‘silver lining’ maker and it has been challenging to shake it. I saw it as being positive, but I’ve learned it’s dismissive. I don’t want to be dismissive. I’m going to keep working on it.

  6. I love my husband so much, but I call him “solution man”. Whenever I tell him how I’m feeling or a problem I’m having, he instantly jumps into solution mode to try to help me. Even thought the sentiment is very much appreciated, I have thought of every possible solution and just need to sit with the feeling for a time. I think of one of my favourite quotes form the show “Parks and Recreation”. “You’ve fallen into the classic trap of trying to fix someone’s problem instead of just listening to what it is. Next time, just stay silent, look into their eyes, take their hand and say, ‘That sucks.'”

  7. Thanks for sharing.

    Being empathetic is to being able to recognize and relate to other’s emotions. Recognition and understanding are important!

  8. I wonder if empathy can be more than being vulnerable and connecting with something in yourself to share the feeling. I saw a Facebook post recently that said something like “normalize having empathy for people without knowing what they’re going through” and I’ve been thinking about it a lot – I know I have definitely struggled to show empathy unless I’ve had the same or similar situation happen to me. Something that my partner and I have started to do before talking about something that’s happened (or a feeling either of us have) is express what we need from the conversation whether that’s “I’m looking for advice on this and I’m open to solutions” or “I just want you to listen”.

  9. “Rarely can a response make something better”. I have to learn this! Usually I try to either cheer someone up (“at least”) or try to offer a solution. I think I respond this way because I think the person is searching for a solution, when, in fact, they just need someone to listen.

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