I am an introvert. By that, I mean that I am drained by interacting with others, especially so in situations that are uncomfortable or unknown to me. When I feel tired or stressed I tend to isolate myself and stay relatively quiet.
Why am I telling you this? It is because the traits I describe above are not usually the ones people associate with empathetic people. If you haven’t interacted with me frequently, I can come across as cold and aloof which is opposed to the warmth and interest usually associated with empathy.
Introversion and empathy, however, are not opposed to each other.
If interacting with others is draining at best, then emotionally supporting someone (which is hard for the best of people) can be a downright struggle.
But, to my fellow introverts, do not give up. We might have to work a bit harder to be seen as caring and compassionate, but it is worth it. Sit through that emotional conversation where all you want is to be alone, celebrate with others even when you want to be lowkey, and take advantage of your strengths by offering a listening ear.
A large part of society has developed an image that “empathetic” people are “social” people. That they must want to talk constantly, be surrounded by people to care for, and that they must bring positive energy to everything they do. These people exist, but empathy can also be seen in quiet thoughtfulness, secluded conversations, and recognizing when an occasion is somber.
This is not to say all introverts are empathetic people, but it is to say that understanding other people is important in viewing empathy and relationships in general. In one sense, empathy is best acknowledged by those who are empathetic.