The Power of Empathy: A Quick Animated Lesson That Can Make You a Better Person

Sev­er­al years back, the RSA (Roy­al Soci­ety of the Arts) cre­at­ed a series of dis­tinc­tive ani­mat­ed shorts where heavy-hit­ter intel­lec­tu­als pre­sent­ed big ideas, and a tal­ent­ed artist rapid­ly illus­trat­ed them on a white­board. Some of those talks fea­tured the likes of Slavoj Zizek, Steven Pinker and Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich. Now RSA presents a new video series cre­at­ed in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ic. Above, you can watch what will hope­ful­ly be the first of many “espres­so shots for the mind.” This clip fea­tures Dr. Brené Brown, a research pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hous­ton Grad­u­ate Col­lege of Social Work, pro­vid­ing some quick insights into the dif­fer­ence between sym­pa­thy and empa­thy, and explain­ing why empa­thy is much more mean­ing­ful. To learn more about The Pow­er of Empa­thy, you can watch Brown’s com­plete RSA lec­ture here. You can also watch her very pop­u­lar TED Talk on The Pow­er of Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Psy­chol­o­gy Cours­es (Part of our list of Free Online Cours­es)

Carl Gus­tav Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in Rare Inter­view (1957)

Jacques Lacan’s Con­fronta­tion with a Young Rebel: Clas­sic Moment, 1972

New Ani­ma­tion Explains Sher­ry Turkle’s The­o­ries on Why Social Media Makes Us Lone­ly


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Comments (10)
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  • Cj says:

    The prob­lem with this car­toon is that it dimin­ish­es the val­ue of sym­pa­thy. In fact, I believe the def­i­n­i­tions used are actu­al­ly faulty. More­over, empa­thy is not appro­pri­ate in all social con­texts. This car­toon sug­gests empa­thy is valu­able in all con­texts, which is not at all the case.

    • crazymom7777 says:

      I agree! Sym­pa­thy has its place. Sym­pa­thy is what you give when you tru­ly can­not empathize because you have nev­er been in the same sit­u­a­tion as the per­son you are try­ing to com­fort! For some­one like myself, who has nev­er been depressed, to give the sug­gest­ed, “I know what it’s like down there” (in the dark hole) would be patron­iz­ing. I DON“T KNOW what it’s like!!!!nThe speak­er’s sug­ges­tion at the end, “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you shared this with me” — that’s not empa­thy! That’s not putting your­self in the per­son­’s place. Rather it is show­ing car­ing and sup­port with­out know­ing exact­ly how the per­son feels.… um.… isn’t that sym­pa­thy?

  • Ingrid Fonta Muki says:

    I think its awe­some!

  • AntonioNeal says:

    This video is a real eye open­er, as so many peo­ple feel they are car­ing because they show sym­pa­thy, yet by show­ing sym­pa­thy they are real­ly not say­ing that they do not care so much because they are will­ing to try to under­stand anoth­er per­son­’s posi­tion, but they are not will­ing to make the con­nec­tion to feel what it is the oth­er per­son is tru­ly feel­ing. This just shows anoth­er dis­con­nect that peo­ple have cre­at­ed with their sur­round­ings.

  • MGR says:

    In order to have empa­thy with some­one you real­ly need to care about this per­son. We have all suf­fered one way or anoth­er in our lives. That’s enough. You can use this expe­ri­ence to con­nect. If you wish to. If you care.

  • IK says:

    Sil­ver lin­ing can be put in oth­er words too, you don’t need to say ‘At least…’ Per­son­al­ly, I pre­fer when friends offer me an opti­mistic per­spec­tive than when they try to under­stand and con­nect.

  • CH says:

    These com­ments are real­ly inter­est­ing. While the video offers a nice per­spec­tive and cer­tain­ly opens up the dis­cus­sion, I find myself agree­ing with crazy­mom’s com­ment.

  • Alok Mittal says:

    Educa­tive; Try­ing to learn how to be more emphat­i­call then sym­pa­that­i­cal

  • Mary Phillips says:

    Would appre­ci­ate advise on best col­leges or uni­ver­si­ties in US for young man inter­est­ed in becom­ing a writer. Thank you

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