I liked that humanistic version NYCINDIE... thanks.
I agree empathy is totally important. But I'm realizing that different people have differing abilities to be empathetic. My hubs is not empathetic. At all. He can listen to what I say, and see how I'm feeling, but he doesn't "get" why, doesn't really understand, and cannot put himself in my position. I spent 10 years not understanding that. So for him, it's important for him to communicate with me and for me to lay it down exactly what's going on and what I need. I don't (can't) expect him to understand me, or know how I feel. But I can expect him to respect that I do feel that way, and for us to do things to correct whatever situation's going on.
If you take the I and me out of it, then you risk treating someone in a specific manner because that to you is respectful and empathetic and helpful, and having that be NOT what they want or need. Maybe that's just my specific experience in life (very possible), but what I want and need is not anything like what hubs wants and needs, and until we sat down and talked and communicated that we didn't know. We both thought we were treating the other one well-- and it was OUR definition of well, not the other person's-- and so we both felt not taken care of and misunderstood a lot of the time. Very frustrating experience.
What I learned from that was not to treat hubs like I would want... but to ask him what he would like in any given situation. I learned not to expect him to "understand" my feelings, but to listen and to work with me (if needed-- sometimes it's all me I just need him to hear it).
I'm really empathetic so it took me... um... 43 years to figure out not everybody is! Hubs and I had an argument (minor) the other night because he doesn't think it is possible to really "understand' someone's feelings unless you've experienced the very exact same thing. :-/ I had to explain to him that I got it that HE can't do that, but many people can. Just because he doesn't experience it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But he really really doesn't understand that ability at all. Even his GF agreed with him that he doesn't have empathy. What he does have is the ability to accept people for who they are, listen to what they're saying, and to adjust to what they need. But you have to tell him straight up what that is.