The power of empathy

January 31, 2022

The power of empathy

We’ve all been there: someone tells you a personally difficult story and you don’t know what to say. However, there is no guideline regarding right or wrong reactions in a given situation. Right?

Please watch the video below and discover in less than 3 minutes that there is actually a way in which we can ease someone's suffering: empathy



Empathy can help you build a deeper connection with a friend, family member, or patient who is going through a difficult time. But how do we strengthen our empathic power? Here are some practical suggestions based on the video of Dr. Brené Brown:

  • Try to take the other one’s perspective or to put yourself in the other one’s shoes
  • Stay out of judgement and listen
  • Recognize emotional responses
    e.g what it is like to have the feeling the other person seems to be feeling
  • Communicate or mirror emotions of the patient  
    e.g. “It sounds like you are worried about …”

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” – Dr. Brené Brown




Below some of the many studies that highlight the importance of empathy in oncology care:

1. Back AL, Arnold RM, Baile WF, Tulsky JA, Fryer-Edwards K. Approaching difficult communication tasks in oncology. CA Cancer J Clin. 2005;55(3):164-77. -
2. Pollak KI, Arnold RM, Jeffreys AS, Alexander SC, Olsen MK, Abernethy AP, et al. Oncologist communication about emotion during visits with patients with advanced cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25(36):5748-52. -
3. Berkey FJ, Wiedemer JP, Vithalani ND. Delivering Bad or Life-Altering News. American family physician. 2018;98 2:99-104. -
4. van Vliet LM, Francke AL, Meijers MC, et al. The Use of Expectancy and Empathy When Communicating With Patients With Advanced Breast Cancer; an Observational Study of Clinician-Patient Consultations. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:464. Published 2019 Jul 17. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00464 -


Lore Dams, PhD