Quotations on empathy that are worth framing
Why, you might be wondering, have we decided to talk about empathy in a blog that mainly covers business? Because at work, as in our private lives, being able to listen to and understand the needs of others enables us to build stronger relationships.
In this post, we’ve brought together a selection of the best quotations about empathy: they will help you and your team remember just how important it is to put yourselves in the shoes of the people you come into contact with every day.
But first things first: what is empathy and why is it important?
According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, empathy is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.”
There are times when we have to deal with an unhappy customer, answer a snotty email, tell a colleague they’ve made a mistake or respond to criticism about ourselves. It’s at times like these that being empathetic can avoid conflict. And it can even turn a confrontation into a positive learning experience. The secret is this: count to 10 and always ask yourself what the person you’re talking to is feeling, what they’re trying to say to you between the lines, why they’re saying it that way and how you can respond constructively. If you do this, you can turn a negative situation into a positive one.
The best quotations on empathy: our selection
“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”Ian Maclaren, author.
“Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes.” Native American proverb
“All nightingales understand one another, but we men, will we ever manage to understand one another?” Yevgeny Yevtushenko, poet.
“The highest expression of empathy is accepting and non-judgmental.” Carl Rogers, psychologist.
“Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another” Alfred Adler, psychiatrist.
“If what I say resonates with you, it’s merely because we’re branches of the same tree.” William Butler Yeats, writer
“If you look into someone’s face long enough, eventually you’re going to feel that you’re looking at yourself.” Paul Auster, writer
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia, writer.
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.” Meryl Streep, actor.
“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” Roger Ebert, film critic
“If you are in conflict with another person, the first thing you should do is try to understand it thoroughly. Looking in depth will show you his suffering and then you will not want to hurt her or punish her or make her suffer, but you will accept it as she is and will try to help her.” Thich Nhat Hanh, monk.
“Let those who desire Buddhahood not train in many Dharmas but only one. Which one? Great compassion. Those with great compassion possess all the Buddha’s teaching as if it were in the palm of their hand.” Buddha, spiritual teacher.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’” Francis Scott Fitzgerald, writer.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each one’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all our hostility.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet.
“Empathic awareness is born out of the sense that others, like ourselves, are unique, mortal beings. When we empathise with another, it’s because we recognise her fragile finite nature, her vulnerability, and her one and only life.” Jeremy Rifkin, economist and sociologist.
“Blessed is he who can say to himself: I have dried a tear.” Giuseppe Giusti, poet.
“I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them.” Baruch Spinoza, philosopher.
“There is a part of each of us that is adrift and foolish, at times strongly inclined to roaming and breathing nothing but our own solitude; so it is by finding this part of ourselves that we can understand you.” Natalia Ginzburg, writer.
“Look out the other’s window. Try to see the world as your patient sees it.” Irvin D. Yalom, writer.
“I’m talking to you as if I’ve known you for centuries. This always happens when two understand each other.” Ernest Hemingway, writer and journalist.
“An effective way to combat anxiety is to worry less about yourself and more about others. When we truly understand the difficulties of others, our own lose their importance.”
“What is the essential condition for dialogue? It is the ability to see things from the other’s point of view.” Paolo Flores d’Arcais, writer.
“In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.” Walt Whitman, poet.
If one of these strikes a chord, make it your motto.