First Week Post: Interpersonal Communication Facilitates an Honest Relationship

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
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As the article “What is Empathy, and Can Empathy Be Taught?” emphasizes, empathy cannot really be taught as a skill; instead it should be actively stimulated through experiences and concepts by teachers and educators.

From my perspective, I definitely agree with the contents of the paper. I believe that the only way to appreciate or attempt to grasp the concept of empathy is to first develop an “open mind-set.” This mind-set includes what the paper entails, prejudices, self-awareness, fears, listening skills, and most importantly respect and tolerance towards differences.

Since this is mentally and spiritually stimulating course I am going to write completely what I think about Empathy and other related terms. Feel free to rebuttal and give opinions! 🙂

Personal definitions/perspectives:

Interpersonal Communication is the KEY to creating everlasting and unique relationships in any setting.

What is the differences between empathy, sympathy, and pity?

Sympathy is feeling emotions along side others. An example to me would be supporting and helping a friend in necessary and real need and they have to initiate/hint that they “want” help. A good friend would be able to see through the hint and act if they don’t want to say it directly.

Pity is when you use your own good intentions to help a friend when they have not shown any hints or asked for it directly. By doing this you have actually degraded their self-worth in your eyes because you think your own opinions will definitely help them in their situation and that they “should” listen.

Empathy is the mutual understanding between people as “human beings” with all other unnecessary factors aside. This means that we should attempt treat each other and in this case, patients, as human beings who have not been exposed to any positive nor negative factors whatsoever that has possibly shaped their views. These include prejudice, intolerance of differences… etc. In other words, we should practice unconditional care and “judge” people based on “nothing” rather than anything. Of course this is the ideal but without ideals there is no drive towards achieving this true and possible goal.

Here are two more elaborate pieces I wrote in another blog I have to hopefully explain what I mean a bit more:

1) Show Compassion and Consideration and Open Our Minds… Before it is Too Late:

Most chronic pain patients have gone through A LOT so if the practitioner asks them to describe or rate their own pain there is sometimes a very vague response or simply an expression of just plain unsure! And this does not mean that they are “not” in pain or “are” in pain but it can also mean that they have had pain for so long that they/nervous system have become de-sensitized to their own body. Therefore, they have an extremely hard time trying to describe how much pain they feel at a particular moment, especially if the practitioner is bluntly rushing them! There is a reason why chronic pain patients search for help and it is not because they want to, it is because they “have” to. This may seem “obvious” to anyone but the lack of empathy and interpersonal communication in professional and personal settings show otherwise. It’s true that it is really hard for others who do not suffer from chronic pain to “understand” someone with chronic pain but this needs to change! This is where compassion and the “Open mind-set” comes in because this is required to understand even if it is only “slightly.” Too many people fail to show compassion and have that open mind until it is too late.

What do I mean? What I’m trying to say is unless a “drastic or dramatic” situation occurs such as most “INSPIRATIONAL” videos which elicits “EPIPHANIC” realizations, many people choose not to or have little interest in showing compassion and turning on their mind! Of course this isn’t everybody but it is likely the majority.

So I suggest, showing compassion, consideration and develop that open mind-set before it gets extremely drastic or fatally dramatic.

2) Comfort Elicits the Truth (sort of related to the video about vulnerability):

If a friend is in need just provide them a comfortable vibe so they can be themselves around you and the trouble they are facing.

We all have our dire times or times of need in which we seek significant support from the people we care about but we sometimes don’t have the courage to do this. Sometimes your friends will hide their true emotions by ignoring a question, using excuses, or most commonly laughing about it. If we notice this and try to question them they will sometimes ignore it. Therefore, what we should do is just act in a way that makes them feel comfortable around you, to the point that they can open up to you. For example, joke around a little bit, have an open mind and show them that you won’t judge, and eventually they will trust you enough to tell you what’s bothering them. The bottom line is to be yourself in a sincere way and if they are able to open up to you about their problems, then that is the bonus you have earned. Everything after is easy because all you gotta do is keep that trust intact and you will have a understanding relationship.

Extra video if you wish to view: Topic is about depression and how it is ignored as compared to “visual and realistic” injuries such as a broken arm.

  1. tomarna says:

    Interesting, I often end up with chronic patients that have been told the pain is all in their head. If I may query 1 point do you mean by pity that you impose your assistance on someone who doesn’t need it? or do you mean some does need it but hasn’t had the courage to ask?

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Hey Tomarna, I agree.I have heard that many patients are told that chronic pain is only in their minds and I think that is one of the worse things to say. It gives the patient like no hope or rather more confusion. What does “in their head” really mean? Because I think chronic pain could indeed be in their head but it is still very real. The longer the pain stays the more effect it has on the nervous system and functional mentality. We all know that if we have or have had pain it affects our daily lives.

      Breathing is probably one of the most potent but under utilized method used to treat chronic pain. I have learned that breathing as slow as you can during both inhale and exhale may be better than breathing as “deep” as you can.

      Sorry I got carried away with this haha.

      Back to the question about pity. I was simply using friendship as an example to describe pity. I meant that some times people fail to notice that their friend is actually okay and doesn’t want any help per say. But with good intentions they want to help out in their own way because they believe their assistance will make the situation better.

      The ones who don’t have the courage to ask will probably require a good friend to notice them (body language/expression etc) without directly confronting them until they want to speak.


      • Marna says:

        To true, to true, even the acute have poor breathing patterns,
        And yes, that is what I was assuming as to me the second option would be a very empathetic person.

  2. Hi Jackie
    Really enjoyed reading your post and was drawn to the example used. I love the use of examples, makes for easier understanding complex topics. Been racking my brain for a good rebuttal but alas, i cannot! Loved the post=)

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Hey Janine! Thanks for enjoying my post as that is the goal haha. Yeah, some times examples create THE scene or image that is engraved into our minds.

      Thanks for the encouraging comment! 🙂

  3. Wendy Walker says:

    Hello Jackie,

    Really interesting blog, & I think your definition of pity is very succinct and accurate.
    Having read the course material, I remembered reading some Carl Rogers books many years ago, and he talks about the value of Unconditional Positive Regard, which seems to be the same as your “unconditional care”.
    Interestingly, later in your blog you write about how it is useful to “be yourself in a sincere way” and Rogers speaks of the need for a therapist to be “congruent” which he defines as “whatever feeling or attitude I am experiencing would be matched by my awareness of that attitude.”
    It seems that you and the eminent psychologist Carl Rogers have reached some very similar conclusions!

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Wow, Wendy, thanks for the great comment! I don`t know who Carl Rogers is nor have I read his books on psychology but I am honoured to have similar conclusions as him! I hope to be a great therapist in the future. 🙂

      If you don`t have an open attitude, care and thus treatment will almost always be superficial and hardly deep.


  4. Hi Jackie. Fantastic post! Really enjoyed reading it. I agree actually with everything said. Chronic pain has such a big somatosensory part with the involvement of the Thalamus-Hippocampus affecting pain perception and processing. So it’s so important to remember the human being behind the diagnosis or problems. Our emotions have such a strong and deep influence on our bodies and neural integration. I remember being at a Dry Needling course many years ago and this one marathon-running, happy go lucky physio had this unexpected emotional outburst and anxiety attack when the instructor needled her upper thigh and knee in a demonstration. She later then shared that she was in a car accident a few years ago and had to relearn gait and knee control by going through intense rehab due to nerve damage and a hip fracture. She also lost her mom in this accident. So she still associates that injury and body part with all the emotional turmoil, pain and struggle she went through. Whether we want to or not, our emotional inner-self needs taken care of and cannot be ignored. Great video too, thanks for sharing.

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Thanks for your input and experiences Chantelle! Yeah the mental struggle and turmoil is probably the toughest to even begin to treat. If the loss of a loved one is added then it’s even greater. As we all know, the physical aspect of our sufferings may eventually disappear because of our body’s unique ability to heal through almost anything. But the mental aspect as seen in people who have no more physical pain, requires more time and support to heal. IE. Once a patient can walk without physical pain, their gait is still “mentally impaired” and may be unnoticeable from the naked eye. Therefore, this could lead to other problems.


  5. […] First Week Post: Interpersonal Communication Facilitates an Honest Relationship […]

  6. fatexyman says:

    Hi. I have this link for pain management, its a webinar I participated in and it might help a bit.

  7. sheilamarie says:

    Hi jackie,

    Your post made me rethink my opinion regarding chronic patients or in my case chronic complainers (athletes). It made me realize that a therapist can never be in the patient’s shoes/or athlete’s shoes right at the moment. Each person have different levels of pain or emotions. Empathy means understanding that pain.

    • jackiewong88 says:

      Thanks for your input Sheila! The pain levels and emotions to that pain for each individual varies so much that it is usually impossible to understand at a particular moment.

  8. […] loneliness and death.  Furthermore, I was inspired by and drawn to the well written blog posts by Jackie, Marna and Charde, discussing interpersonal communication and the importance of empathy in practice […]

  9. […] First Week Post: Interpersonal Communication Facilitates an Honest Relationship ( […]

  10. […] First Week Post: Interpersonal Communication Facilitates an Honest Relationship […]

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