We talk a lot about empathy in the Positive Pieces office. You could say it's becoming a bit of a buzz word at the moment and for good reason. What does it mean though? There is often confusion between what it is to be sympathetic versus empathetic. Sympathy is described as expressing feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune as opposed to empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
I love this video by Brené Brown on Empathy vs Sympathy. It's a lovely carton that perfectly sums up what it means to be an empathetic person, it's also funny AND really cute!
Simon Baron Cohen, one of the world’s chief experts on autism (not to mention he's also Sacha Baron Cohen's, creator of Borat and Ali G's cousin) has written many books on Empathy, in particular Zero Degrees of Empathy which delves into the idea that we sit on an empathy spectrum. Watch this video of Dr Baron Cohen presenting his work on the subject.
He also, alongside Sally Wheelwright, developed the Empathy Quotient or 'EQ' Test which is a self-directed questionnaire designed to measure empathy in adults. You can take the EQ Test for yourself here.
So, Why is Empathy Important?
Empathy is arguably one of the most important attributes we can possess. Chad Fowler from Lifehacker lists the following points as to why you should practice empathy and the benefits of doing so.
You will be more likely to treat the people you care about the way they wish you would treat them.
You will better understand the needs of people around you.
You will more clearly understand the perception you create in others with your words and actions.
You will understand the unspoken parts of your communication with others.
You will better understand the needs of your customers at work.
You will have less trouble dealing with interpersonal conflict both at home and at work.
You will be able to more accurately predict the actions and reactions of people you interact with.
You will learn how to motivate the people around you.
You will more effectively convince others of your point of view.
You will experience the world in higher resolution as you perceive through not only your perspective but the perspectives of those around you.
You will find it easier to deal with the negativity of others if you can better understand their motivations and fears.
Here's a great visual of the 4 elements of Empathy that Brené mentions in her video. You can find this, along with other helpful visuals on our Positive Pieces Pinterest page.
The Second Step Program teaches empathy to primary school students in a class-room based format that is easy to teach and fun to learn. To learn more about the Second Step Program and how it can make a positive impact in your school, enquire with Positive Pieces today.
Our next blog will delve into the benefits of practising Mindfulness, so be sure to keep an eye out!