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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

The Pros and Cons of Empathy

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Jenna is a very empathic person. However, sometimes she can be too empathic. For instance, Jenna will put up with bad behavior from friends, which stresses her out. When Jenna’s friend, Sasha, flakes out on dates, Jenna tries hard to understand, empathizing with Sasha’s busy work schedule and financial stress. Meanwhile, because Jenna isn’t setting limits with Sasha, her friend continues to stand her up.

Empathy is a good thing — in appropriate dosages. An analogy would be taking vitamins: you want to take the right ones in the right amount. However, too much Vitamin A, for instance, can throw your system out of whack.

Empathy, in the right amount, can enhance relationships. It can make you a deeper and more intuitive person. However, there is a fine line between being empathic and being an enabler.

If Jenna makes excuses for Sasha’s bad behavior, Jenna is enabling the behavior. By being an enabler, she reinforces the behavior and encourages it to continue.

At the same time, too little empathy isn’t a good thing either. It’s a delicate balancing act, and no one performs it exactly right. But the key is to be aware of your own tendencies and your reactions.

If Jenna starts becoming resentful towards Sasha for her flakiness, this is a red flag that Jenna is being hurt by the relationship. In this case, Jenna shouldn’t talk herself out of her feelings by trying to put herself in Sasha’s shoes. Even if Sasha is stressed out, this doesn’t give her the right to be irresponsible and disrespectful of Sasha’s time.

Ask yourself whether you veer towards being too empathic. Can you relate to Jenna? Or do you have a tendency to not be empathic enough? Keeping an eye on empathy can lead to a more balanced and satisfactory relationship with other people.

(Please note: any references to people in this blog, or any blog, are not of real people, but of composites.)

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