Most us see at least one homeless man a day.
Some of us might spare him money while others will just walk away, averting eyes, while their faces portray disgust. What is the difference between the people who give the homeless man some money or even a kind glance and others whose faces are filled with revulsion? Simple, its empathy. Empathy is nothing but the understanding of another living thing’s feelings, be it human or animal. To quote author Daniel H. Pink,
Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.
Did you know that the world empathy was introduced in 1909 by Edward B. Titchener, a psychologist who translated the German term einfühlung which means “feeling into”?
Importance of empathy
Most of us understand our feeling and what we want at any moment. Empathy, however, lets us understand the feelings of other people. To put it simply, it allows us to “walk a mile in another person’s shoes.”
So how does this empathy make the world a better place? Educator Stephen Covey was of the opinion that,
When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems.
Certain studies have explored the neurological and cognitive processes that function behind empathy. Scientists have discovered that brain’s different regions such as anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula work when we experience empathy. This quality leads to helping mentality among people and aids in our relationships among people which leads to a better functioning society.
How empathy helps the society
We humans are social animals. We need contact within our society to survive and flourish. Therefore, it is important to understand others and their feelings. This will definitely give us an edge over people who cannot empathize. Whether you are studying or working, empathy always comes into play. Giving your notes to a sick student or extending a person’s deadline for his or her project because of some tragedy at home makes all the difference in your life. Good relationships are built like this.
It is proven that empathy makes you perceive other people’s feelings even if they are cannot vocalize it all the time. This non-vocalized understanding also helps you communicate better and understand what is going on in that person’s life. You also become better at handling conflicts as you realize everyone has a side to their story and might not be completely wrong. Like singer Matt Bellamy said, “Empathy seems to be seen as a weakness. We condition people to withdraw it to succeed. But really, it needs to be re-seen as a strength again if there is to be any kind of hope in the world.”
Not only does empathy help us spread, well, empathy by making people convince everyone has a point of view but also broadens your horizons by experiencing what the other person is feeling. At an extremely basic level, empathy is what makes us humans.
Let us end with a quote about empathy by activist Tarana Burke,
An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.