Empathy is a building block of one’s emotional intelligence, and is unique to humans, much like morals. Unlike its most close contender word sympathy, it does not stop with ‘feeling for’ someone. More accurately, it refers to ‘feeling with’ someone- their needs, concerns, and also the attitude towards the present situation.
What is Empathy?
Scientists categorise empathy as a feeling concerned with the ability of a person to recognise the emotions of other people. This is the very foundation of true sense sympathy and compassion; without this feeling, any seemingly sympathetic word or simple compassionate deed towards someone could come out as offensive. This is primarily because the people at the receiving end of sympathy tend to be hypersensitive to these actions. They can possibly take it as a sign of pity if they do not recognize the genuine empathetic warmth. Real compassion, as said, is empathy in action.
Also read: The Science Behind Anxiety
Presumably classified, there are three distinct kinds of empathy in the human experience.
First, cognitive empathy is the ability of a person to simply know the feeling of the other. One could say that this is simply perspective absorption.
Second, emotional or ‘affective’ empathy results from subjective emotional contagion. This empathy often occurs unconsciously, without any active effort. This helps one person to be in well sync with the other’s feelings.
Lastly, compassionate empathy, on the other hand, doesn’t only fill the emotional criterion. It also spurs the empathetic person into action, like active help to the other one.
According to Daniel Goleman, the famous psychologist, and behavioral science journalist, there are five key elements of empathetic behavior:
- Understanding Others
- Developing Others
- Having a Service Orientation
- Leveraging Diversity
- Political Awareness
The Neuro-Chemical Mechanism
A study by the Max Planc researchers published in the Journal of Neuroscience on 9th of October, 2013, points out that the area of human brain chiefly involved in this regard is the right supramarginal gyrus. This is a convolution of the cerebral cortex, located at the junction of the parietal, temporal and frontal lobe.
The right supramarginal gyrus ensures that we can separate our perception of ourselves from that of others. When the neurons in this part of the brain are disrupted, it will be difficult not to project one’s own feelings onto others. As a result, empathetic feelings also gets deranged.
Can We Improve Our Levels of Empathy?
We can cultivate empathy by exercising some simple tweaks in our regular life.
- Self awareness-being conscious about the present. Similarly, examining own attitude to check for probable situational bias.
- Paying attention- listening, with full concentration
- Validating the others’ perspective- In other words, putting yourself in others’ shoes. Re-evaluating the situation works best in this way.
- Giving genuine apprehension to people, meanwhile encouraging them for good.
In conclusion, to determine the shape of the future world in determining the shape of the future world and mankind, and we all need to work on it, even if for a scientific approach.