1. A friend needed a friend today and she needed empathy not sympathy.

  2. I had a really bad day at work today and I happened upon this wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. I feel a little better. Keep up your great work!

  3. Oh how I loved this. So true! I’ve noticed over the years that the friends who I enjoy talking to most about things that bother me are those who say little and listen long. I admire that trait and try to do the same for my friends.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. My son, http://www.Georgeisajerk.com, sent me the link to your blog because he thought it might help me as I am working to start my own. On Dec. 11, he lost his little daughter, still in her mother’s womb, at 37 weeks. She was a beautiful little girl and I got to hold her the next day. It was very sad! So I just experienced first hand what empathy means: A LOT! And my little granddaughter is motivating me to encourage others!

  5. Beautiful. I just lost my grandmother, and three months ago lost my grandfather, and I had a few people tell me “Well at least you had grandparents that were still alive.” I wish more people were empathetic. Loved this so much, thank you for sharing!

  6. What a great video, thank you for sharing this. I work on being empathetic but I know I sometimes try to point out the “silver lining” I can see now that this is not the best approach. I loved this video.

  7. This is wonderful! I am a psychiatric nurse and can say for a fact this is dead on in my experience!

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  8. I can’t even explain how much a loved this video! And I saw a lot of me in it as well, the silver liner, always trying to find the good when people are just trying to be heard. Thank you so much for posting!

  9. I love this so so much. I am in training as a clinical social worker and so much of our work is about empathy and connecting with another person’s pain. Thanks for sharing.

  10. “Rarely can a *response* make something better. What makes something better is *connection*.” Wow. Taking that pearl of insight with me.

  11. This brought tears to my eyes too! I’ve been going through a dark time recently, and it’s very hard to find someone who can listen to me and empathize, rather than try and bring my spirits up. Thank you for posting this… <3

  12. this is beautiful and so are the comments!!! thank you for posting the best things :)

  13. Am I the only one who teared up at the little hug and heart at the end? Geez I’m a total sap.

  14. This just put into words (and adorably illustrated pictures) how I felt when people responded to my miscarriage.
    “It’s for the best, really. There was something wrong with this baby.”
    “Don’t worry. You’ll go on to have another baby.”
    So rarely did I receive true empathy. The sympathy and cliches that people spout made me feel alone and misunderstood. What a great video. I’ll keep this in mind the next time someone in my life is going through something difficult.

  15. I came across your post on exactly the right day. A friend needed a friend today and she needed empathy not sympathy.
    “At least…” does indeed start too many of my sentences!

  16. Thank you so much for posting this. I didn’t know about the RSA before but I’m so glad I do now. Their videos are just brilliant, clever and fun to watch. I subscribed immediately.

  17. Worth the watch and so true. Makes me realize how sometimes I am not willing to put the extra effort into a relationship and pull out the “at least responses”

  18. This is really personal to me.

    My mom is really ill and I have started many sentences to her with “at least…”

    I can see now that maybe that was not the best thing I could have said for her.

  19. M says...

    this is awesome, thank you!

  20. This is so true!

  21. You should absolutely check out http://www.rootsofempathy.org. It’s an amazing organization that is trying to better the world by teaching school children empathy using babies as the teacher. New York is one of the cities that has taken on this program!

  22. That was fantastic. Thank you for sharing it :)

  23. Brene is amazing. I just finished listening to Men, Women, & Worthiness and it is so good and perfect for mom’s who don’t have much time to read. ;)

  24. This is so clear and concise. Thanks for sharing! I passed this along to a couple of my dear friends who have embody empathy.

  25. Always an interesting subject to talk about! I had a professor explain it to me once and he said that in essence, sympathy means “I feel sorry for you,” and empathy means “I feel sorry with you”. That made it so much easier for me to understand!

  26. This is beautiful. Brene Brown is phenomenal. We should implement these lessons in schools! Or something…

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  28. This just filled my heart. I just got out of a relationship with someone who admittedly lacks empathy and those 17 months I spent in that environment were one of the most difficult experiences I’ve lived through. That little clip just provided me reassurance. Thank you.

  29. Amazing animation and such a wonderful and important message. Thanks for sharing and spreading the word.

  30. I agree so much with stk. This is what sets you apart Joanna. Thank you for your humanity and for sharing this. I remember being in hospital for my first operation (I had a recto-vaginal fistula and needed to have an ileostomy performed to help heal me). Anyway, one nurse said to me as I cried one day from being so sad that it could be worse you could have abdominal fistulas that we would find harder to treat and another told me of how she sometimes had people come in who had had both mastectomies and ileostomies performed. And of course they were both right- there is always someone worse off…And it was a good lesson for me myself. I will never because of those words uttered to me myself say to someone who for instance is in the godawful hypothetical situation of say have a baby who dies and then utter the words- it could be worse I know someone who’s twins died. The words might be true but dear me they lack so much emotional intelligence. Thank you. Thank you.

  31. Thank you SO much for sharing this. I’ve never thought about it this way but it’s all so true and rather enlightening. Especially this: “Never does an empathic response begin with at least”.


  32. Such a wonderful reminder. I love these posts– as Amanda said so well up top, these are the things that keep my coming back to Cup of Jo. I love fashion, and I love food, but the thing that makes this blog so *beyond* good, is the sense of humanity in this space, Joanna! I’ve sent so many Cup of Jo links to friends over the years, and almost all were posts that help– that are empathetic and honest, about motherhood, anxiety, fear. Thank you for what you do.

  33. This is great; thanks for sharing! I’m super-interested in anything relate to empathy and helping people develop social/emotional intelligence. There’s been lots of interesting research on how reading literature increases one’s empathy, (I think you might have posted a link to that awesome NYT articles about reading Checkhov).

    One of the things I do in my courses is sometimes show Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk from a few years ago, “The Danger of A Single Story.” It’s amazing–she’s amazing. If you’re ever looking for something to read, you should pick up her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Life-changing.

  34. this is wonderful! thank you so much for sharing. Dr. Brown explained this so perfectly!

  35. I really connect with this post, Joanna. I’m a resident and with all the ridiculous hours I work, it’s so easy to slip into the sympathy trap. The less you engage with patients, the easier it is to get work done, tick a box and move on. Fortunately and unfortunately, I’ve been through some awful illnesses with both my parents and these experiences always come to mind when I approach a hospitalized patient who has just undergone surgery. Just being able to validate a patient’s feelings by saying “I understand and I’m sorry,” makes all the difference.

    The ability to imagine oneself in another’s shoes is not instinctual for most people, and you can’t do this without being in touch with your own emotions, having some imagination and keeping an open mind. I think that learning, traveling, meeting new people and opening oneself up to different cultures and socioeconomic classes are important. The more parochial you are, the less you will be able to place yourself in the shoes of others. And losing the ability to empathize is a scary thing. Thanks for this great video!!

  36. dc says...

    <3 !

  37. This might be my most favorite thing you’ve ever posted! So insightful. Gifted are people like her, who can explain these things so articulately.

  38. I recently watched Brene Brown’s two TED talks – they are amazing and inspiring! Check them out if you haven’t seen them.

  39. Thank you for sharing. Perfect way to explaining something so important.

  40. I highly reccomend Dr. Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”. This short is lovely!

  41. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Joanna!

  42. Oh, I just loved this. These kind of posts, these ones meant to uplift others, remind me of walks on cold days when you pass a house where someone is doing laundry and little puffs of clean linen or spring rain waft your way. Sweet.

  43. This is beautiful. And so important! Thanks for sharing, Joanna. xo