One important thing you should know about empathy is that it is not just an inborn capacity. It is a skill that can be learned. One can define empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
Developing empathy makes your life much better. It helps you to see beyond yourself and enable you to view life from other people’s perspectives. This is why Erich Zorn says empathy is the greatest virtue. From it, all virtues flow. Without it, all virtues are an act’.
As you cultivate empathy by identifying the thoughts and feelings of the other person, you see that it changes your life for the better. Before understanding the importance of empathy, it is good to identify some of the common reasons, which you tend to become less empathetic.
WHY YOU RUN OUT OF EMPATHY
From presentations, submissions to appointments, and assignments, there are so many things that demand your attention throughout the day. Also, research shows that our attention span is reducing.
A study by Microsoft Corp establishes that our attention span dropped from 12 to 8 seconds. As your attention span reduces, it difficult to focus and pay attention to what other people are saying. So, you do end up not listening and this could result in poor communication.
Apart from poor attention problems, you are likely to be influenced by implicit biases. Implicit biases stereotypes/ attitudes which unconsciously affect your decisions. You tend to make judgments about people based on age, gender, class, race, and ethnicity. This kind of stereotyping prevents you from acknowledging that other people have different perspectives and experiences.
A research study suggests that the problem of implicit biases in healthcare can be resolved through empathy training. The existence of implicit biases can prevent healthcare practitioners from being empathetic towards patients. As the result, they can’t provide the right kind of treatment and care for the patients.
Most of all are the fact, that we all hold different positions of power in society and this can make us less empathetic. Research confirms that people who hold power tend to not consider other people’s perspectives.
They tend to perceive themselves as being above other people and see themselves as unique. Such people get disconnected from their co-workers because of their poor empathetic skills. Apart from power positions, individual temperamental issues can block the ability to show empathy. For instance, if you are prone to unexpected emotional outbursts, then you tend to become less empathetic towards people.
Raging emotions can prevent you from understanding others. Now you know some of the reasons why people become less empathetic. Now, let us find out more about some of the benefits you get as you practice empathy.
IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY
A Study shows that empathy influences interpersonal relationships. Being empathetic empowers you to see and acknowledge the perspectives of the other. This skill will help you to handle differences and conflicts that arise with your colleagues.
In 2018, a study called the state of workplace empathy found that over 92% of the employees believe that empathy in the workplace remains undervalued. It is undervalued because of our persistent need to be absolutely right about our opinions.
In the process of self-assertion, we miss out on the important fact that empathy is the key to developing inclusive and diverse workspaces. There is also research that suggests that empathy plays a huge role in improving relations between groups.
For instance, empathy helps you to acknowledge the prejudices that influence the way you perceive the other person. It will help you to understand that the other person is a human-like you. As the result, you start to make meaningful connections with people.
Empathy is also central to the functioning of the healthcare sector. This implies that health is not only about medicines and treatments. It is also about how the doctor can empathetically solve the patient’s problems.
One study shows that health care professionals showing empathy will significantly bring a change to the patient’s health and treatment outcomes. By training in soft skills that are centered around empathy. The healthcare sector would be successful in providing patient-centered care.
PRACTICE MEDITATION TO BUILD EMPATHY
Spending a few minutes meditating helps you to build empathy. A study from Emory University shows that a compassion-based meditation program helps people to read the emotional expressions on other people’s faces.
The participants of this study were given just 8 weeks of meditation training. After 8 weeks, it is found that the participants scored 4.6 percent more on the empathy tests. Even the brain scans showed that there was an increase in empathy levels.
As you practice, compassion-based meditation, you visualize positive feelings and emotions such as love and care. You notice that you start to understand people better.
Through meditation, you can consciously practice goodwill and kindness daily. A study shows that six weeks of practicing loving kindness meditation makes the student more empathetic.
Practicing kindness helps to alter your mood as your body releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter. It helps to regulate your mood swings. Studies show that serotonin also influences cognition and the autonomic nervous system.
The presence of a high level of serotonin in your body boosts your memory and speed of learning. In a study conducted using a mouse model, it is found that if serotonin neurons are activated in animals. They tend to adapt their behavior better to the given situations. Thus, practicing meditation can make you an empathetic person. All you need to do is to take a few minutes out of your day to make your life better.