Empathy, associated with many important aspects of communication behavior, is generally held to be difficult, if not impossible, in intercultural encounters. It is argued in this essay that previous definitions of empathy have not been useful for intercultural communication because of (a) an overemphasis on accuracy, (b) an inappropriate focus on affect, and (c) the improper portrayal of empathy as an ability or a skill. A relational view of empathy is advocatedfor intercultural encounters, with emphasis on a productive rather than a reproductive approach to understanding. Relational empathy de-emphasizes similarity, concentrating instead on the development of a “third-culture” between the communicators, thus providing a basis for building shared meaning in the intercultural situation. This view of empathy has several pedagogical benefits for intercultural communication instruction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics