Occasionally I run into individuals who do not have the ability to empathize. They are unable to walk a mile in another person’s moccasins. To them, the problem is the other person; they’re perfectly fine.

Recently I interacted with two men who had been asked to stop wearing a symbol/button with a slogan at work because it was offensive to a co-worker. Both loudly proclaimed their right to wear the object, unable to see what could possibly bother anyone. Despite my attempts, neither man was able to get in touch with the other person’s feelings despite the fact that I told each he did not have to agree with the feelings; just consider them.

This lack of empathy is worrisome because, without empathy, we are unable to develop trust and rapport with others. This, in turn, can lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings, and has the potential to escalate to violence.

How is your empathy IQ? You can find tests online, including one at https://psychology-tools.com/empathy-quotient/.

Even if you score well, it’s a good idea to keep your empathy quotient high by doing a few simple things:

  • Pay attention to what people say; ask questions; look for understanding.
  • Ask what other people feel. Find out what they need.
  • Read books or watch movies that give viewpoints of other individuals or groups with which you are unfamiliar.
  • Get beyond a superficial conversation with a stranger.

While empathy is a good thing, don’t let it overwhelm and paralyze you. Do what you can to help, but remember that you didn’t create the problem and you alone can’t solve it.

Lastly, being empathetic does not mean you agree with the other person’s viewpoint. You can always agree to disagree.

 

Sources:

“I Don’t Feel Your Pain: Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy” by David F. Swink. Retrieved August 21, 2016 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/threat-management/201303/i-dont-feel-your-pain-overcoming-roadblocks-empathy

“Empathy” Retrieved August 21, 2016 from http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/empathy.html.

5 Ways to be more Empathetic” by Roman Krznaric. Retrieved August 21, 2016 from http://time.com/3562863/5-ways-to-be-more-empathetic/.