MAY

MAY

Empathy

School happenings...

 

Definition -
Empathy is the ability to understand things from another person's perspective. It includes the ability to share someone else's feelings and understand why they're having those feelings.
Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably but they are separate processes.  When you feel sympathy for someone you identify with the situation the person finds himself or herself in.  You might feel badly for what they are going through while empathy involves sharing this person’s emotions.  Sympathy is feeling for someone; empathy involves feeling with them.
 
Some Facts -
Empathy is a learned behavior but the capacity for it is believed to be inborn and appears to vary from person to person. Studies show that children begin to show genuine empathy at two years of age.

Animals are empathic too!  Animal behaviorists have found that many species display empathic behavior and demonstrated towards humans and other animals.  Animals have been observed to offer comfort, to grieve for another, and to put themselves at risk in order to rescue another from harm. African elephants are considered to be one of the most empathic species.

Experiments using MRI’s provide evidence that our brain’s neural circuitry is engaged when we are empathic.  Scientists believe this complex emotion occurs when two parts of the brain work together. The emotional center of the brain perceives the feelings of others while the cognitive center tries to understand why they feel that way. 

Empathy levels in the United States may be falling. A meta-analysis of empathy test scores collected over the past 30 years found that the average American today is less empathic than 75% of Americans 30 years ago.

Why empathy is important -
By understanding what others are thinking and feeling, we are able to relate to them. When you are empathic, the people in your life feel supported and cared for.
The use of empathy is a vital part of any smooth working relationship. Empathic people have been shown to resolve conflicts faster and to achieve higher rates of job satisfaction.  Increased amounts of empathy in the workplace have been linked to improved job performance, increased profits, and better leadership abilities. 
Empathy can play a pivotal role on a larger, even global scale when it helps people cooperate, make moral decisions, and intervene when others are being harmed.

Building Empathy -
Empathy is something that can be strengthened.  Psychologists who study the topic propose the following for those interested in increasing their empathy levels:

Listening without interrupting is an easy way to understand how someone is thinking or feeling.

Be fully present when you are with people and tune in to non-verbal communication.  You can start being fully present by putting away your phone, not checking your email, and not accepting calls while you are interacting with someone. A study by Professor Emeritus, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, reports that the things we say account for only 7% of what we are trying to communicate. “The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language.” If all you’re doing while you speak with someone is listening to what they are saying while you scroll through your phone, you’ll miss the bulk of what is being communicated.

Try to empathize with people whose beliefs you don’t share.  One good way to approach differing beliefs in conversation is to say, “That’s interesting, how did you develop that idea?” or “Tell me more.”

Challenge yourself to have a deeper conversation with a someone. Understanding a person’s point of view or personal challenges requires conversation that moves past the weather. This doesn’t mean you should ask your colleague about highly personal matters. Start by sharing a little more of your own experiences and perspectives and see if your colleague follows suit.

Read Fiction.  Interestingly, reading fiction can increase empathy.  Studies show that when people read fiction, their brains really feel like they are entering a new world and they are often able to identify or relate to people who live lives that are entirely different than their own.