Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

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I’ve been blogging about Emotional Intelligence. Another element of EI has to do with empathy.~ Empathy ~ The capacity to recognize, understand and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness or frustration) that are being experienced by another person. When interacting, people often “wait to speak” rather than ‘hear’ attentively.

To be empathetic you need to really listen. Huh? What?  This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy.

Listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.

When empathizing with others, we understand their feelings without taking them on as our own. We are not meant to suffer when others do; each person’s pain can aid in their growth. We are meant to be there for others in a loving and supportive way by listening with our heart.

Listen With Your Heart

There is a huge difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy involves listening, while sympathy involves reacting. I’ve witnessed a few vocational rehab counselors (only a handful) react to others pain, suffering, anger or grief in such a way that the client was not able to express him or herself and reach their own conclusions. The counselor out of sympathy offered advice and solutions rather than allow others to come to their own realizations. Rehab counselors do not offer advice!

Here’s just an example of being sympathetic over being empathetic:

Placement Client: “I can’t find a job.”

Vocational Rehab Counselor: “You will, all you have to do is keep trying. Here, let’s send your resume to employer XYZ. Call them in the next 3 days and ask for an interview. Call me when it’s scheduled.”


Placement Client:  “I can’t find a job.”

Vocational Rehab Counselor: “Would you like to tell me what you’ve done in your job search? Let’s start from the beginning, or where you felt your job search was not progressing. Is there something you’d like to do differently? What would you like to see happen in the next week or two? I’m here to help and will guide you through the process.”

To be a good rehab counselor, you need to have true empathy

I believe Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors should have true empathy.  Critical thinking skills are important as well! More on that in a future blog perhaps?


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

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