What’s Empathy Got to Do with Creativity?

Everything (If You Want to Do Either “Right”)!

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Let’s start by being real. Creativity is not hard. Neither is empathy. They are both natural human impulses.

Watch what a child does when presented with crayons and paper and you’ll witness our creative nature in action. The way that child behaves toward a playmate in distress reveals our empathetic impulse.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is simply the act of bringing something into the world that didn’t previously exist. Every time you make a meal, make a mess or make amends, you’ve engaged in an act of creation. Creativity is an everyday human activity.

In The Stoic Creative Handbook, I assert that creativity rises to artistry when we engage our creative capacity with a clear motivation, greater intention, and precise aspiration for a specific audience.

Art involves connecting, communicating, and collaborating with others. That’s where things start to get messy because emotional labor is involved. And that’s where empathy comes into play.

What Is Empathy?

Empathy is an important step (but not the final step), in a process for serving ourselves and others. Here’s a typical progression that leads to greater engagement and effectiveness.

Pity — You acknowledge suffering.

Sympathy — You care about whoever is suffering.

Empathy — You feel and understand the suffering.

Compassion — You are moved to alleviate or prevent the suffering.

Employing Creativity and Empathy

Creativity is a tool, and art is a process. That process is fraught with challenges, failures, and frustrations because it happens with and for others. How does one flourish through this? By employing empathy; first with ourselves, and then with others.

But real problems arise when we conflate terms. Art employs creativity, but not every creative impulse is art. Art requires embracing feedback and failure and this takes real empathy.

“They’re not paying attention.” “They don’t appreciate me.” “Why don’t they get it?” These aren’t expressions of self-empathy made by artists, they are expressions of pity made by amateurs unwilling to acknowledge that you are only entitled to the work, not the fruits of your labor.

When an artist employs empathy, they maintain a mindset of curiosity and a posture of discovery when faced with adversity. They embrace feedback and failure because it reveals a path to improvement. An artist who employs empathy, first with themselves and then towards others, develops art of greater significance and more powerful connection.

Want to elevate and enhance yourself and those you seek to serve? Understand what creativity and empathy are for and then employ them properly.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


8 Utmost Common Untruths about Creativity

by Paul Tufts

How Technology Can Help Bring About a New Era of Human Creativity

by Sabrina Kestenbaum

C.L.E.A.R. Thinking in the Time of COVID-19

by Kylie Zeal

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.