Even though it is frequently mentioned by many people, empathy is something that is hardly practiced or prioritized. Up to 98 percent of people are capable of empathizing with others, with the exception of sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists who are incapable of understanding or relating to the feelings and emotions of other people. People with Autism Spectrum may also struggle when it comes to understanding other people’s emotions and expressing their empathy in the traditional way.
What Exactly Is Empathy?
Empathy can simply be termed as the ability to understand something from the perspective of another person. This means that you can share their feelings or emotions and understand the reason as to why they are having those feelings.
Types of Empathy
Ideally, in the attempt to define empathy, different people have tried categorizing empathy into different types. For instance, psychologists Paul Ekman and Daniel Goleman have categorized empathy into emotional, cognitive, and compassionate empathy. Emotional empathy (also referred to as affective empathy) is the ability to share the emotions of another person. This means that you are able to feel sad when you see the other person sad.
Cognitive empathy on the other hand refers to the capability to understand how another person feels and figure out what they could be thinking. And compassionate empathy also known as empathetic concern is when you take your feelings to action. It goes beyond just understanding or relating to people’s situations as the individual is pushed to do something about it.
Why Empathy is Important
Empathy is a very vital aspect of our daily lives. This is because it enables us to show compassion to other people, relate to our friends, loved ones, colleagues and even strangers, hence impacting the world positively. Some the areas where sympathy is needed include:
In Our Personal Lives
A healthy relationship requires care, nurture, and understanding. For instance, a romantic relationship or friendship with no empathy or understanding is bound to fail. This is because when one of the parties in a relationship only thinks of their personal interests, the other one may suffer and opt out. The same applies to marriages; in case one spouse fails to see things from the perspective of the other, they are likely to experience serious marital issues. This is because people are different in terms of their life experiences, ideas and struggles, and if you cannot relate to your spouse’s feelings or perspectives, they are likely to feel unloved.
In Our Work Life
For most people, workplaces are places for teamwork and for those things that require group effort; you will need to relate to your co-workers even if you are not working on the same project. This will help in ensuring that you have a smooth working relationship and prevent workplace disagreements. In addition, the management also needs to have empathy so as to avoid subjecting the employees to unfair practices.
For the World
From the global perspective, empathy is infinitely important particularly if it ends in compassion. This kind of empathy usually compels people to step in and help people that have been struck by major disasters even if they are total strangers to them since they will have an understanding that they too would need such assistance if they were in a similar situation.
Are We Born with Empathy or Do We Acquire it?
While there is evidence that points to the fact that our ability to empathize can be traced back to our genetic predisposition, it is also true that empathy like any other skill can actually be increased or even decreased. It is part of emotional intelligence which you can teach to your children at their early stages in life. You can train your children to share their things, avoid hurting others, and to feel with those that are hurting.
How to Significantly Improve Your Empathy Levels
It is important to note that while it is easy to train a child to be empathetic, as an adult you can also increase your levels of empathy. Ideally, this can be done by reading literary fiction with lessons, themes or characters that show empathytowards others. The other ways include; listening to other people and trying to understand those people that could be having opinions and beliefs that are different from ours.
This guest blog was contributed by Anna Kucirkova who works as a copywriter. She speaks 3 languages, loves traveling and has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and South East Asia, she still wants to explore the rest of the world.