What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to participate in another person’s life through thoughts, feelings and actions. Cognitive empathy refers to the active effort of understanding others’ thoughts, values, feelings, and behaviour. Affective empathy refers sensing and understanding the feelings of another while reflecting and controlling one’s own feelings. In behavioural empathy, understanding others leads to actions that take them into consideration, such as helping or changing one’s own actions. The different types of empathy illustrate how empathy can mean different things but in reality, all three types are closely intertwined.

What is not empathy?

In colloquial language empathy is often used interchangeably with sympathy and compassion, even though these three are not synonyms. Sympathy and compassion are about sensing and personally sharing a feeling while empathy goes beyond this. while empathy goes beyond this. Empathy is about sensing and understanding the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another and about reflecting and controlling one’s own feelings and finding solutions to better the situation.

Can empathy be learned?

The basis of empathy is in human biology. Empathic behaviour is intrinsic and common to humans. Empathy is often felt towards people who are familiar or similar to us. Understanding the feelings and thoughts of different people outside of our social circles is more challenging.

However, we can expand our circle of empathy through conscious practice and life experiences. New encounters, conversational interaction, and conscious reflection of one’s own feelings of empathy can increase empathy towards different people. Empathy can also be learned through games and stories. The first step towards the expansion of our circle of empathy is the curiosity towards others.

Why is the Finnish Refugee Council launching the Empathy Movement?

It is easy to identify with people similar to us, but empathy must extend beyond that. We are facing enormous global challenges. These challenges require solutions based on meeting different people, active participation and understanding one another.

We have observed that the discussions on refugee and migration issues often lack the willingness to understand one another. Immigrants continue to face many prejudices and unequal treatment.

With empathy we can increase inter-cultural understanding and build functional societies. Empathy helps people meet each other as individuals. It unleashes fears and prejudices. Empathy is the key developing good coexistence and building an equal society. Trust is the basis of success and the Finnish society needs trust between its people. That is why each one of us must cross the social limits of our empathy and face people on the other side.

Empathy Movement and Businesses

For companies to succeed in global competition, they need to understand in depth the needs of customers from different backgrounds. An empathic corporate culture also improves both well-being at work and ease of collaboration and, thus the work results. Empathy Movement introduces empathic companies and products and provides companies with trainings to build an empathic, international workplace.

What are the donated funds used for?

Donated funds will support the work of the Finnish Refugee Council. As a donor, you are involved in creating sustainable solutions for refugees and migrants. With your donation, we provide education and livelihoods, prevent conflicts and promote human rights in Finland and abroad. We are currently working with refugees in Uganda, Turkey, Myanmar and Finland.