I liked what my older brother Seth Godin had to say today on his blog. He said that, whilst empathy is no bad thing, we can overdo it. Be patronizing in a way. I remember seeing Paul McCartney at the NIA in Birmingham, UK and he introduced the song 'Blackbird' from the White Album by saying he'd tried to write it from the perspective of a black woman. Bollocks. Paul McCartney could no longer empathize with a black woman than he could pick his nose with his toes. Sympathize, yes, but not empathize, which is something different.
It's this problem that leads to people assuming they know what's best for others which leads to a condescending nature which I can't abide (which means I probably have it, if you spot it you got it).
Never get so that you're thinking you have the other person 'taped'!!
Seth's Blog-the original internet marketing guru (he'd put it in a much less hackneyed way than that)