Inspiration Decks Emotions 2024-03-14 00:00

Emotion: Empathy

Emotion Empathy

When you want to write the emotion empathy, it's important to "show" the emotion your character is experiencing through their physical reactions and dialogue, rather than "tell" it. In this article we provide you with inspiration so you can avoid showing instead of telling and immerse your readers in your story.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves the capacity to perceive, feel, and respond to the emotions of others, and to put oneself in their shoes, seeing the world from their perspective. Empathy is an important emotion to consider when creating characters, as it can help make them more relatable and engaging to readers.

  1. Different Types of Empathy
  2. Situations Associated with Empathy
  3. Physical Reactions to Empathy
  4. Thoughts Associated with Empathy
  5. Atmosphere of Empathy
  6. Verbs Associated with Empathy
  7. Emotions Before Empathy
  8. Emotions After Empathy
  9. Telling Empathy Examples to Avoid
  10. Practical Examples of Showing Empathy
  11. Exercises for Showing Empathy

Different Types of Empathy

Here are some different types of empathy:

  • Sympathy: feeling sorry for someone's pain or suffering
  • Compassion: experiencing the suffering of others and taking action to alleviate it
  • Understanding: comprehending and relating to someone else's feelings and experiences
  • Identification: seeing oneself in another person's situation or emotions
  • Emotional contagion: feeling the same emotions as someone else, almost as if they are contagious

Situations Associated with Empathy

Here are some situations where a character might experience the emotion of empathy:

  • Witnessing someone in distress or pain
  • Learning about a difficult situation someone close to them is facing
  • Seeing someone else achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle
  • Hearing about someone's personal struggles or hardships
  • Experiencing a similar situation as someone else and understanding how they feel
  • Seeing someone else experience joy or success
  • Being told a story that elicits an emotional response
  • Recognizing their own past mistakes or wrongdoings and feeling remorseful

Physical Reactions to Empathy

Here are some physical reactions a character experiencing empathy might have:

  • Facial expressions that mirror the emotions of others
  • Open body language, such as uncrossed arms and legs
  • Leaning in towards the person speaking
  • Nodding and making appropriate noises to show that you're listening
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Mimicking the tone and rhythm of the other person's speech
  • Touching or patting the other person in a comforting way
  • Crying or tearing up in response to someone else's emotional state
  • Feeling emotionally drained after being around others who are experiencing strong emotions.

Keep in mind that these physical signs and behaviors are not always present, and that everyone experiences empathy differently. Use them as a guide, but always consider the unique characteristics of your character and their specific situation.

Thoughts Associated with Empathy

Here are some thoughts a character experiencing empathy might have:

  • I can feel their pain.
  • I understand how they must be feeling.
  • If I were in their shoes, I would feel the same way.
  • I want to help them.
  • Their happiness is my happiness.
  • I feel a connection with them.
  • I don't want to hurt them.
  • I'm sorry they have to go through this.

Atmosphere of Empathy

Here are some ways that you might reflect the emotion of empathy in the atmosphere of your scene:

  • Set the scene in a place that evokes a feeling of warmth or comfort, such as a cozy living room or a sunny park.
  • Use sensory details to immerse the reader in the setting, such as describing the softness of a blanket or the smell of freshly baked cookies.
  • Show characters engaging in kind or compassionate actions, like offering a tissue to someone who is crying or helping an elderly person cross the street.
  • Have characters express vulnerability or share personal stories that allow the reader to empathize with them.
  • Include moments of connection between characters, like a heartfelt conversation or a comforting hug.
  • Use dialogue that shows characters actively listening and responding to each other with understanding and compassion.
  • Show characters making sacrifices or going out of their way to help others, even if it means putting their own needs aside.

Verbs Associated with Empathy

Here are some verbs commonly associated with the emotion of empathy:

  • Understanding
  • Compassion
  • Sympathy
  • Caring
  • Nurturing
  • Connecting
  • Listening
  • Comforting
  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Acknowledging
  • Identifying
  • Sharing
  • Feeling

Emotions Before Empathy

Here are some emotions that may come before a character experiences empathy:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Contempt
  • Jealousy
  • Envy
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Excitement
  • Happiness
  • Love
  • Trust
  • Anticipation

Emotions After Empathy

Here are some emotions that may come after a character experiences empathy:

  • Compassion
  • Sympathy
  • Understanding
  • Connection
  • Concern
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Forgiveness
  • Tenderness

Telling Empathy Examples to Avoid

Here are some examples of telling the emotion empathy in a sentence. You should avoid things like this:

  • She felt sorry for her friend who had lost her job.
  • He sympathized with the homeless man on the corner.
  • She understood how her sister felt when she lost her pet.
  • He pitied the boy who was being bullied at school.
  • She empathized with her coworker who was going through a difficult breakup.
  • He felt bad for the girl who didn't get accepted into the university.
  • She sympathized with the character in the book who had lost a loved one.
  • He understood the pain of the soldier returning from war.
  • She felt sorry for the children who were living in poverty.

Practical Examples of Showing Empathy

Here are some examples of showing empathy in a sentence:

  • She reached out and touched his hand, feeling the warmth and tension in his fingers.
  • As she listened to her friend's story, tears welled up in her eyes and she gave her a tight hug.
  • He winced at the sight of her bruised cheek and asked if she needed any help.
  • She put herself in his shoes and realized how difficult the situation must be for him.

Exercises for Showing Empathy

Here are some writing exercises to practice showing empathy:

  • Write a scene where your character overhears a stranger's conversation and feels a deep sense of connection to their struggles.
  • Have your character volunteer at a charity or community organization and describe the impact it has on their emotional state.
  • Write a scene where your character puts themselves in someone else's shoes and feels their pain or joy.
  • Create a character who is initially closed off and distant, but learns to connect with others through the power of empathy.
  • Write a scene where your character witnesses an act of kindness and is moved to tears.
  • Describe a moment where your character recognizes their own biases and actively works to overcome them to better understand someone else's perspective.
  • Have your character reflect on a past experience where someone showed them empathy and how it affected them.
  • Write a scene where your character must make a difficult decision that requires them to put others' needs before their own.

Want more help with showing emotion instead of telling? You find more help in our full emotions list.

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