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12 Quotes That Prove the Power of Empathy

“Empathy,” like “emotional intelligence,” is a term that’s used frequently but can be difficult to define. It may be easier to describe empathy with examples rather than with words:  a child sharing their lunch with a glum and hungry classmate, commiserating with a friend who’s had a bad day at work, sending flowers to a colleague after they’ve lost a loved one.

Empathy is about placing yourself in another person’s situation and extending them care and support as a result. It’s about unity and recognizing that we’re all connected and similarly susceptible to inconveniences and tragedies.

On an even more basic level, it’s about really listening, paying attention to others’ needs, and being open to learning about people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. When we show empathy toward one another, we also become better versions of ourselves, more attuned to the roles we play in society and more knowledgeable of the ways in which we can help each other thrive.

Here, we’ve rounded up 12 quotes about what it means to show empathy to inspire you to lead by example and practice this virtue in your daily life.

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.
Alfred Adler

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If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
Harper Lee

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Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen.
Barack Obama

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If you see someone without a smile, give ’em yours!
Dolly Parton

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Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
Simone Weil

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The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person.
Carl Rogers

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Empathy is forgetting oneself in the joys and sorrows of another, so much so that you actually feel that the joy or sorrow experienced by another is your own joy and sorrow. Empathy involves complete identification with another.
Dada Vaswani

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An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.
Tarana Burke

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Empathy comes from the Greek “empatheia” — “em” (into) and “pathos” (feeling) — a penetration, a kind of travel. It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border crossing by way of query: “What grows where you are? What are the laws? What animals graze there?”
Leslie Jamison

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Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.
Sterling K. Brown

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Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Leo Buscaglia

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No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.
Brené Brown

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Featured image credit: Cecilie_Arcurs/ iStock

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About the Author
Joyce Chen
Joyce Chen is a writer, editor, and community builder based in Seattle, Washington.
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