14 Days of Empathy

Getting Started

Empathy is often described as the glue that holds societies together. Without it, humankind probably wouldn’t have survived. Our ancestors depended on acts of caring — such as sharing resources, helping with the sick, and protection from predators. Currently,we need empathy more than ever. Yet, often it feels like empathy is on shaky ground. This is likely because in the past 50 years the ability to imagine other people’s points of view declined by a third. Meanwhile, the average level of sympathy for the misfortunes of others reduced by almost half!

People have varying aptitudes to empathize. But it is not, as you might think, a mystical ability. Some of us grew up in environments where perspective-taking was valued. Although others did not have this experience, almost anyone can learn to be empathetic if they are willing. Although there are many ways to cultivate empathy, practicing positive social behaviors, like getting to know others, putting yourself in their shoes, and challenging one’s own biases is incredibly effective at building our empathy muscles.

We believe you are able to be a more empathetic person. What is most important is that you are willing. If you think you can build empathy, then you probably can – that simple!

There is hardly a single day that goes by without observing or benefiting from someone’s empathy. Reflect on your past few weeks and determine whether this is true for you. One key to building empathy is learning to recognize and notice when empathy is present, or better, knowing when it is needed and providing it. The next 14 days are designed for you to practice concepts and ideas within the context of your daily interactions.

 

Go Deeper

Empathy

The Greek root of the word “empathy” is “empatheia”, which means passion. “Empatheia” was then adapted in German to “einfühlung”: “ein” meaning into and “fühlung” meaning feeling. However, it was Dr. Edward B. Titchener who coined the English word “empathy.” In its simplest form, empathy is to have an awareness and general sense of the emotions of other people. It is the ability to understand what others are feeling and imagine what they may be experiencing. Armed with this insight, empathetic people are able to respond appropriately. 

There are several types of empathy – affective, cognitive, compassionate, and somatic. Guess what, we have added “radical empathy” to the mix. These are big words for simple concepts. Don’t be discouraged though. Here’s the breakdown.

  • Affective empathy – the ability to respond appropriately to people and situations. Affective empathy is sharing an emotional experience – one of feeling together. Aggressive people have almost half the affective empathy of others. Think about if you tend to be indifferent when you see other people experiencing hardships?
  • Cognitive empathy – the ability to understand what a person is thinking and feeling without necessarily “resonating” with that thinking or feeling state. It also tends to reduce interpersonal aggression. If you stop listening to other people when you don’t agree with them, it could be a sign of a lack of cognitive empathy.
  • Compassionate empathy (which is also being motivated to help or engage in social behavior that benefits other people or society as a whole) – This is when you feel moved to help another person or experience their reality. Avoiding helping people who are upset, hurt, or at a disadvantage indicates a lack of empathy.
  • Somatic empathy – the ability to recognize what others are feeling and to physically feel it with them. Have you had a hard time picking up on the emotions of people around you? Is it hard to imagine how you would feel if you were in someone else’s situation? These characteristics are core to empathy.

At different times and in different seasons, things happen in our environment that cause us to have shifts in the level of empathy we display to ourselves and to others. In these next two weeks, we invite you to take all forms of empathy to an obscene level – a radically empathetic level. Radical empathy is the relentless commitment to fundamentally change from being judgmental to accepting. It is recognizing that people’s basic needs come before they can understand and learn from each other. The “radical” part come in when we are able to express this type of empathy even when someone has difference lived experiences than we do.

The Data

There have been many studies that show higher levels of cognitive and affective empathy result in the ability to improve your personal outcomes and result in a positive impact on other people. In the healthcare industry, there is a correlation between empathy and a doctor’s ability to 

  • achieve more positive patient outcomes, 
  • engage in understanding interactions, 
  • have an increased therapeutic alliance,
  • more accurately diagnose depression and anxiety, 
  • notice greater patient satisfaction, and 
  • have fewer malpractice claims. 

Doctors who showed higher empathy were even more likely to have their HIV patients take their medications. You can realize positive results related to increased levels of empathy in your personal life and in your industry, too. 

Isn’t Being Empathetic a Weakness?

Too many people think of expressing empathy as a weakness. That thinking is devoid of facts. Empathy is the ability to relate with someone else’s emotions, therefore, it isn’t a sign of weakness. Being empathetic simply shows that you’ve experienced the emotions that someone else is experiencing. It can help you give advice on how to deal with it, and that’s a strength to your advantage. This 14-day plan will simplify your focus so that you can acknowledge what’s important through all the distractions and attempts to be less empathetic. In fact, the hope is that you will have the strength and courage to take empathy to new obscene heights. 

The themes are broken down into two weeks.

Overcome the unthinkable

© 2022 Dr. Nicole Price. Powered by Forbes Books.