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An Introduction to the Empathy® CliftonStrengths Theme

Looking to learn more about Empathy? Whether you want to know more about how to use your Empathy theme to succeed, or how to help someone harness theirs, you've come to the right place.

You'll find definitions and descriptions made popular in the international bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0, plus ideas for how to better understand and use this CliftonStrengths theme.

What Is the Definition of Empathy?

Empathy and the rest of the CliftonStrengths themes are comprised of natural talents that Gallup has identified through decades of research.

People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people's feelings by imagining themselves in others' lives or situations.

People complete the CliftonStrengths assessment to learn which of the 34 themes, like Empathy, are strongest in them.

The following theme description highlights the thoughts, feelings and behaviors you are likely to experience if you have strong Empathy:

You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective.

You do not necessarily agree with each person's perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person's predicament -- this would be sympathy, not empathy.

You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful.

You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings -- to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons, other people are drawn to you.

Empathy is a theme in the Relationship Building domain of CliftonStrengths.

People with dominant Relationship Building themes like Empathy build strong relationships that hold a team together and make it greater than the sum of its parts.

Each of the 34 CliftonStrengths sort to one of four domains -- Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking. These domains help you understand how to use individual CliftonStrengths to succeed when you join, create or lead a team.

Learn more about the CliftonStrengths domains

How to Better Understand Your Empathy Theme

Making the most of your Empathy talents starts with gaining valuable insights into what you naturally do best.

How people with strong Empathy talents describe themselves:

  • "I am an emotional person."
  • "I need freedom to laugh, cry and vent."
  • "I love the gladness, sadness and madness of humanity."
  • "I hate things that block or limit emotional expression."
  • "I bring emotional intelligence."

How to Apply Your Empathy to Succeed

The most successful people invest in their strongest talents. The only way to develop your Empathy talents is to use them every day -- at work, at home and everywhere else.

The following are a few ideas for how to apply your Empathy to achieve your goals:

Work With Empathy: Because you are observant of how others are feeling, you are likely to intuit what is about to happen before it becomes common knowledge. Although your intuitions may at times seem like nothing more than "hunches," take conscious note of them. They may turn out to be valuable assets.

Lead With Empathy: Sensitive to the feelings of others, you readily gauge the emotional tone of a room. Use your talents to forge a bridge of understanding and mutual support. Your empathy will be especially important during trying times because it will demonstrate your concern, thereby building loyalty.

Live With Empathy: Act quickly and firmly when others behave in a way that is unhealthy for themselves or others. Understanding someone's emotional state does not mean that you must excuse this behavior. Be aware that when your empathy turns to sympathy, others might see you as a "bleeding heart."

Check out our in-depth videos from Gallup experts for more ways to use Empathy to make the most of your potential.


If You're a Manager With Empathy

Your Empathy talent makes you stronger. Lead with your strengths so both you and your team can succeed. A strengths-based approach to management will lead to:

  • better conversations
  • stronger partnerships
  • higher team engagement
  • greater collaboration

For manager-specific insights and strategies, check out your CliftonStrengths for Managers report and explore your top 10 themes and how you can use them to reach your goals.

Managing Team Members With Strong Empathy Talents

Discovering the collective talents of your team using the CliftonStrengths assessment is just the first step.

To successfully manage or lead others, you must individualize your approach. You must understand what makes each of your team members unique. And you must lead meaningful conversations about performance that focus on what each person naturally does best.

An Example of Managing Team Members With Empathy

Help them understand, appreciate and articulate the value of their Empathy talents. It may come so naturally to them that they think everyone feels what they feel. Their strong feelings may embarrass them, but their innate ability to understand others' emotions provides team members with comfort and stability. Show these employees how to use this ability to everyone's advantage.

Use the CliftonStrengths Assessment to Discover More About Empathy

How Strong Are Your Empathy Talents?

Purchase CliftonStrengths 34 to reveal your complete unique talent profile and learn just how strong your Empathy talents are. You'll get personalized insights into your CliftonStrengths results and ideas for maximizing your potential.

How to Work With Others With Strong Empathy Talents

Gallup offers resources and products you can use to help others succeed by developing their Empathy theme and all their CliftonStrengths.