So much is written about the value of people increasing their empathy. But what about those who need to decrease their empathy? What if you have excessive empathy? How do you deal with all that understanding and sharing of others’ feelings? What about when those feelings are really strong? Or you understand and share the feelings felt by multiple people? When I meet someone with excessive empathy this is what I see:

  1. Indecision – “How can I make a decision that might impact on another person, or lots of other people? How is it possible to balance the importance of these feelings, of different feelings, or different people with different coping resources?”
  2. Reticence in putting own needs first – “Why would my feelings be more important than others’? Why should my feelings or thoughts be of higher value than other peoples’ feelings/thoughts? Or perhaps my feelings will just bring up more feelings for others and therefore I should leave them left unspoken.”
  3. Over-screening of own words/actions – Preoccupation with lots of distracting thoughts as the value of their words is assessed. Like a chess player several moves ahead, excessive empathy leads to complicated assessments of the impact of words/actions.

Excessive empathy comes at a cost but one that can be managed.

Keep an eye out for the difference between empathy and excessive empathy. And assess, would you be able to serve yourself and others better if you reduced your excessive empathy?

Feels strange to talk about de-empathising but it is one of the most essential skills you could learn if this post is speaking to you.

Excessive Empathy – Defined by Dr Amy Silver – debilitating emotional connection sometimes to the point of paralysis, always to the detriment of the inflicted, usually to the detriment to those they try to serve


  • Dr Amy Silver

    Speaker - Author - Facilitator

    Amy’s background includes working as a Clinical Psychologist and Academic Tutor for Oxford University (in the UK). Her research and specialist area of psychotherapy was around how fear prevents perceived choices, and how the simplest of behaviour changes can create huge personal growth, better conversations and smarter decisions. She moved out of clinical work 15 years ago. With a short stint as a professional actress, Amy now helps brave organisations drive cultures where people grow and achieve. She regularly publishes on growth, trust and connection in her ‘Silverlinings’ posts. Her book entitled Conversations Create Growth shows managers how to lead performance conversations that drive engagement and achievement. She is currently working on her new book The Safe Space: Where teams achieve which will be the essential guide on generous team collaboration for agile practice with elevated outcomes. Amy has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Masters in Forensic Psychiatry, Masters in Performance and a BSc Hons in Psychology. She worked as a practicing Clinical Psychologist and an Academic Tutor and researcher at Oxford University in the UK. Amy also had a few years working as a professional actress so you can ask her questions about how to have a successful audition for Subway sandwiches later. Having worked in corporate for 15 years Amy absolutely knows how to transform behaviour using psychological knowledge and communication skills.