“Empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of others and to imagine what someone else is thinking or feeling” according to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The difference between empathy and sympathy is that sympathy shows compassion and compares its situation with the other. Empathy is to immerse yourself in the feelings of the other without judging. Having empathy is partly congenital; in the first two years of life, those skills will develop further. Humans are not the only ones with natural empathy; primitive animals such as rats also possess it.
Everyone is in a different situation, and it is sometimes difficult to see how someone feels on the outside. By showing empathy, you can help someone by trying to stand in the same shoes as those. Ensure a neutral state of mind, calmly think about what he or she is saying. Hear what they hear, see what they see, and feel what they feel. This way, you get into the situation and experience everything like that, this makes it easier to offer support, and the other person feels understood. After the perspective is taken, it is important not to judge what the person should do. It is better to do not interrupt the speaker and keep listening until the speaker has finished talking. Ask the last questions about the subject to understand the situation better. Look at the speaker’s body language; it tells you a lot of the person’s feelings and emotions. Recognizing the emotion and communicating is essential for forming a connection between each other. This bond will let the person feel more accepted, more relaxed, and reduce negative thoughts. The purpose of empathy is to make the speaker feel understood.
Empathy ensures better relationships, reduces prejudice and racism, and a better atmosphere in the workplace. Bias and racism can be reduced by using empathy skills because it looks at traits that people share instead of splitting. Due to the similarities, thoughts can be changed, and prejudices weakened.
The empathy process usually takes place on an individual basis. Nowadays, this empathy is also spread via social media with hashtags, for example, the recent hashtag #prayforAmazonas. The Amazon was struggling with enormous drought, nobody was taking care of the forest, and the drought was not even mentioned in the news. People found out about this disaster and started sharing because they had empathy for the animals and unique plants that only appeared in the Amazon. Because of this action, many people began donating, and the ultimate goal to stop the fire was successful. This is one of many examples of how showing a small group’s empathy can affect a larger group.
Having empathy for someone depends on many different factors. For example, if someone is hit by a car and you know him, the empathy is higher than if this happens to a person you don’t know. Besides, the distance makes a difference; if there is a disaster in your environment, people usually find it worse than if the accident takes place very far away. Humanity is, therefore, selective in having empathy. A study looked at the different reactions of Chinese and Caucasian participants. The activity in the part of the brain that demonstrates empathy was less active if the participants observed people from the other ethnic group. This study shows that the amount of empathy also depends on the ethnic group to which someone belongs. In some situations, it is better to have less empathy for a specific group, for example, in wars.
We also discussed empathy in class. All first-year students sat down next to an older year student. The freshman had to change their major to political science by using self-service. The older student had to observe and was allowed to ask questions about feelings and thoughts but couldn’t help or advise the freshman. So, the older years used their empathy skills in this assignment. In the beginning, it was confusing to work with self-service because of its many buttons with different functions. I was perplexed in the beginning, but after a while, I started to understand the program. After I made the roster, we started evaluating the process and thought about what could be improved in the self-service site. We concluded that a tutorial video would be helpful with instructions on how to add and drop classes. The older year students filled in the empathy map with the information the freshmen told them.
In short, the use of empathy is essential to reassure the speaker and to find out what problems the speaker is experiencing.