How Empathy Helps Us Connect to Others
Say you’re walking down the street in the rain, and you notice a woman standing in the rain without an umbrella. She’s shivering and soaked. An empathetic person may walk over to her and let her stand under their umbrella. Someone who is less empathetic may think she should have checked the weather and brought her own umbrella like they did. This is just one example of how empathy connects us with to others.
Empathy involves an understanding of others and their experiences. This understanding is important because it helps people to feel connected to issues that may not affect them directly. The danger of lacking empathy is that it can lead a person to dehumanize others. Having this emotional intelligence can affect many areas of a person’s life including their relationships, their work, and their connection to their community.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. It’s the ability to place yourself in another person’s position and understand their feelings. Even if you aren’t in their shoes, empathy makes it possible for you to imagine what it would be like if you were. It’s a sensitivity to the reality of another person and the differences that help shape each person. Experiencing empathy is something that makes a person more understanding of someone else. Some say that a lack of empathy is forming as people become more desensitized to troubling realities in the world. Either way, having an understanding of another person’s hardships is a tool in connecting people. Empathy helps us connect.
Why Empathy is Important
Empathy is important because it teaches people to be kind to each other and understanding of different stories and backgrounds. Kids are taught about empathy in a number of ways that can allow them to identify emotions in others as well as their own emotions. Empathy helps to establish trust among people and a compassion that can foster kindness, which is why it’s a vital aspect in development. Empathy creates more emotional and honest relationships in a variety of capacities. Empathy does, indeed, help us connect. At the very core, empathy is important because it makes people more aware of their actions, and sensitive to the emotions of others.
The Dangers of Lacking Empathy
The dangers of lacking empathy are vast. A child without empathy may bully more children, and an adult without empathy may villainize certain groups of people. Without an emotional understanding of why something happens, people tend to make judgments based solely on action. Unfortunately, the world is full of cause and effect that creates certain situations for people. For example, those in the medical field need to have empathy in order to understand the needs of their underserved populations. An understanding for those in poverty, for instance, is an important skill in the healthcare field where many of their patients may be experiencing health issues as a result of their low income. Instead of dehumanizing them, they have to work to understand them.
Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your emotions and in control of them. Empathy is a big piece of emotional intelligence because it allows a person to be more understanding of their own emotions, and the emotions of people around them. In turn, that added understanding creates relationships built on compassion. The ability to identify and understand these emotions is useful in nursing, childcare, law, social work, HR, and many other professions that include working with others. It’s a skill that can aid in customer service, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
How Empathy Helps People Relate
Empathy is applicable in nearly every aspect of life and interactions with others. The ability to relate to and understand another person will only strengthen relationships and built a foundation of togetherness.
- Relationships: Empathy is essential to so many relationships in order to build a foundation of kindness. Whether the relationship is involving a spouse, family member, or friend, empathy impacts relationships in a profound way. Empathy shows others that you care and that you’re sensitive to their needs and emotions. Yes, empathy helps us connect.
- Work: In a work setting, the emotional intelligence needed to empathize with others can create better teamwork and less stress. Not only will it assist in providing customers with a great experience, it helps to make work a positive place filled with others who are understanding.
- Community: Empathy can create stronger communities that are more united for each member, not just those in better positions. An empathetic community might raise more money to help the homeless, the sick, or the underserved. A community that is less empathetic may not be as interested in a situation they can’t relate to.
Empathy is the ultimate human connector. It’s impossible for each person to have experienced each human’s upbringing, economic status, family life, and education level. Since we can’t do that, we use empathy to create an emotional understanding of what our own life would be like if we were in someone else’s shoes. This ability to relate, despite not actually relating, is what connects people. That connection is powerful, and can help communities band together.