Module 3: Developing Your Intercultural Skills

Developing Empathy 

Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy? Based on what you know, is it better to show sympathy or empathy towards other people? Watch this short video explaining the difference between sympathy and empathy and how it works on a personal level. Before you watch, think about a time when you needed to feel support and understanding from another person. Can you remember what they said? What effect did that have?

Think about this

  • Why do you think empathy is more effective than sympathy?
  • Why does sympathy “not work”?
Cultural empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, appreciating, and connecting with the experiences, circumstances, and feelings of others. It involves the use of strategies to share understanding and connecting with another person.
Sympathy is the act of commiserating with someone else’s feelings or struggles in a way that whatever affects one person will affect the other. It involves a shared mental state instead of developing an understanding.

Developing cultural empathy is a skill that will allow you to consider the perspectives, experiences, and feelings of another person based on their cultural background or the struggles and challenges they face. Empathy helps you equip yourself with strategies to communicate this understanding of people around you, whether from your own or another cultural background, more effectively. One of the key elements of cultural empathy is the link between considering what one person is going through and reflecting on that coming from a place of understanding. You do not need to be an expert communicator to use empathy, but this does not come without challenges, as you will find out next.

Activity: Why Do We Need Empathy?

Watch this second short video highlighting the importance of empathy in our society. Before you watch, in your opinion, what benefits may empathy bring to intercultural interactions and society as a whole?