Word-Of-the-Week #941: Empathy

August 18, 2022 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #941: Empathy 

Empathy – the ability or practice of trying to deeply understand what someone else is feeling. 

Are you feeling emotionally tapped out? Do you have the energy to care about others right now?

This week features excerpts from, AS SUMMER BEGINS, PONDER THE DROUGHT – EMPATHY. The desire of trying to understand someone’s feelings is running low,” by Steven P. Dinkin.

“In the rainless season we call summer in California, images of shrinking bodies of water have a way of looming large.

After more than 22 years of drought compounded by warmer temperatures, Lake Mead and Lake Powell — water sources that are vital to life in the Southwest — have declined to their lowest levels since they were filled. The two reservoirs now sit at just 28 percent of capacity.

But now, I don’t have climate change on my mind. Instead, I’m thinking about another reservoir that’s nearly empty: our reservoir of empathy.

Empathy is the ability or practice of trying to deeply understand what someone else is feeling. When we empathize, we imagine what it’s like to be in another person’s situation, as if we’re in it ourselves. Sympathy, on the other hand, is a shared emotion, often sadness. It’s the difference between feeling someone’s pain or feeling sorry for them.

  • We’re in the midst of an empathy drought.

It’s reflected in our factionalism on matters including race, gender, politics, religion – even whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask (still). And Friday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade leaves no doubt: Contention between supporters and opponents of abortion rights will only deepen.

Still, the empathy drought is almost understandable.

Americans are dealing with a lot these days: a persistent pandemic, mass shootings, natural disasters. Every day, it seems, we are exposed to stressful or traumatic events. Add personal obligations and household challenges, and it’s no wonder so many people are feeling emotionally tapped out. We have no more energy to care about others.

Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Susan Albers has said that the loss of empathy — which she calls a “limited resource” — can manifest emotionally or physically. Emotional symptoms can include numbness, self-isolation and feeling overwhelmed, powerless or hopeless. Physically, a person may lose their ability to concentrate, be productive or complete daily tasks. Even close relationships can suffer.

And so, a retreat to our respective corners, where we find like-minded others, is easy and comfortable.

To be sure, there’s no rain dance that will replenish Lakes Mead and Powell. How can we restore our empathy? Albers recommends the “ABC” model:

  • Awareness: Identify the stressors in your life. Then sit with your emotions, acknowledge how you’re feeling, and show self-compassion.
  • Balance: If things seem awry, spend less time watching the news or scrolling social media. Instead, focus on the basics — things you can control — like diet, sleep and exercise.
  • Connection: If your empathy tank is near empty, go out of your way to call or video chat with someone you care about. A feeling of connection can be healing.

Empathy plays an important role in workplaces, too. After all, we spend a lot of time working — and a lot of time with co-workers (sometimes more than the time we spend with family members).

Companies have begun to recognize an empathy shortfall in their leadership ranks — and a need to correct it. It makes sense when you consider that workplace culture is a microcosm of what’s going on in society at large. In workplaces, uncertainty, instability and stress can be magnified.

We need to find the energy to care about others — or we run the unacceptable risk of leaving behind a factionalized world for our kids and grandkids. Even with a drop of empathy, we can begin to quench our thirst.”

This week’s focus is on empathy. Are you aware of how many stressors there are in your life? Are you able to focus on the basics — things you can control — like diet, sleep and exercise? Have you had made a connection with someone you care about?

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Word Of the Week #529: Empathy

September 25, 2014 by · Comments Off on Word Of the Week #529: Empathy 

Empathy understanding and identifying with another person’s situation, feelings, thoughts, etc.

Is it easy or hard for you to show emotion? How good are you at recognizing emotions in others? Did you know that the 90% or more of an emotional message is nonverbal?

In Daniel Goleman’s book on Emotional Intelligence he identifies 5 key qualities needed. I have covered 3 of them in several of the past WOW’s. They are self-awareness, self-management and self-motivation. Today I will cover the 4th and that is the ability to recognize emotions in others.

He writes, “Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in a empathyreading feelings. People who have no idea what they feel themselves, are at a complete loss when it comes to knowing what anyone else around them is feeling. For all rapport, the root of caring, stems from emotional attunement, from the capacity for empathy.

The key to intuiting another’s feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels: tone of voice, gesture, facial expression, and the like. In tests with over 7,000 people the benefits of being able to read feelings from nonverbal cues included being better adjusted emotionally, more popular, more outgoing, and – perhaps not surprisingly – more sensitive. In general, women are better than men at this kind of empathy.

The roots of morality are to be found in empathy, since it is empathizing with – someone in pain, danger, or deprivation, say – and so sharing their distress that moves people to act to help them. By putting oneself in another’s place, leads people to follow certain moral principles.

This week’s focus is on empathy. Would you like to be more popular? How comfortable are you with showing your emotions? How good are you at reading other people’s feelings? How about identifying with another person’s situation?

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Word Of the Week #20: Empathy

April 20, 2009 by · Comments Off on Word Of the Week #20: Empathy 

Empathy: the capacity for experiencing another persons feelings.

Last weeks WOW was about the importance of apologizing. Did an opportunity arise to correct a complaint? Was your apology sincere?

Making Amends

Making Amends

When you can put yourself in another person’s situation and feel what they are feeling, it’s very easy to have empathy.

Do you remember when Nancy Kerrigan, the ice skater, was attacked? Tonya Harding’s bodyguard stepped forward and admitted that he had hired someone to do it. But not until he had seen Nancy on TV, was when he experienced remorse and turned himself in.

They say the roots of morality lie in empathy. When you lead your life by doing what is right, morally and ethically, it is easy to have empathy.

This week focus on putting yourself in the other persons situation. How would it feel if it were you? How would you want to be treated? Make the right, moral and ethical choice! Notice how it makes you feel as well as the other person.

Reader Responses

“One thing my wife (Nancy) taught me a long time ago was: Never disallow a person his/her feelings! I have learned quickly and practice it.” — Kurt Bishofberger

“Good “stuff” ~ thanks for continuing to be deligent in your words of the week….even though some weeks I may not respond….I always read them and ponder awhile! — Cathie Capolino

“The empathy wow was perfect seeing as such a situation arose for me today. You must be clarivoyant. Any way thanks for all the good words….. they are fun and educational.” — Deborah McCloud