In the above example, how might the woman respond in the first scenario? I polled several women and learned that they agreed they would most likely feel inclined to beat him over the head with the nearest object they could get their hands on. The point? The husband could not possibly draw from his own experience in this scenario, and yet, he put himself into the equation. Doing so, only magnified the gap in their experiences, missed an opportunity to show empathy, and likely made the wife feel alone and misunderstood.
Although in the second scenario, the woman might not exactly feel like explaining anything given her circumstance, his efforts to show empathy, to understand her experience would most likely be met with appreciation and serve as a perfect opening to an enlightening discussion, even if it took place at a later time.
What Empathy is not:
An attempt to assert your opinion
An exercise in convincing others of your point of view, or having them convince you of theirs
Anything that starts with "I...."
Automatic agreement with the other individual's perspective
Acknowledgment that you are wrong in any way
What Empathy is:
Asking questions - for aid in clarification and understanding
Temporarily suspending your own ideas, opinions, and emotions (particularly anger and resentment)
Best when paired with validation