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April 30, 2021

Death is a very sobering experience. A burial is usually the time for those who are alive to say their goodbyes and reminisce about the life of the departed; the impact they had in their lives and in the world they lived in.

Often times, amidst a stream of tears and sobs, a close friend or family member comes up and in reminiscing, he/she declares that the person being buried was a good person. This then begs the question, if we know everyone who is alive is not necessarily a good person, why is that everyone who dies is called a good person. What exactly is a good person?

This is exactly what this article is attempting to address; what is the difference between a good person and an emphatic person.

While there are very varied definitions of whom a good person is, there is a reasonably agreed upon idea of who an emphatic person is. An emphatic person is one who places him/herself in another’s shoe to fully understand and experience what the other is feeling.

It is generally accepted that there are 3 parts to empathy;

  • Cognitive Empathy: This refers to imagining yourself in a situation and how you will feel during that situation. It involves being able to understand another person’s mental state and what they might be thinking in response to the situation.
  • Emotive Empathy: This regards to including an emotional element in understanding another’s situation. This is feeling what the person feels; not more, not less. This puts us in a better frame of mind
  • Empathic Action: This is involves the ability to understand emotions and respond appropriately. Such emotional understanding may lead to someone feeling concerned for another person’s well-being.


Every society has its own personal view of who a good person is. However, there are some globally accepted qualities every good person is expected to have. Some of these major qualities of a good person include; honesty, responsibility and attitude.

While being good and being emphatic may seem as both positive things, they do not necessarily mean the same thing. For example, former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, claims that he has to be emphatic with the suspects holding people hostages, so that he can better understand them, their motives and better predict their actions.

You can be emphatic with someone without necessarily accepting their way of thinking. All you need to do is understand them.

Being good means having the best intentions towards others. While empathy is often needed for one to be good, one does not need to be good to be emphatic.