Why practice empathy?
The Greater Good website has brought together a wide range of research showing the benefits of empathy:
- Empathy is good for your relationship Research suggests being able to understand your partner’s emotions deepens intimacy and boosts relationship satisfaction;
- Empathy reduces bullying: Studies of Mary Gordon’s innovative Roots of Empathy program have found that it decreases bullying and aggression among kids, and makes them kinder and more inclusive toward their peers. An unrelated study found that bullies lack “affective empathy” but not cognitive empathy, suggesting that they know how their victims feel but lack the kind of empathy that would deter them from hurting others.
- Empathy is good for the office: Managers who demonstrate empathy have employees who are sick less often and report greater happiness.
- Empathy is good for health care: A large-scale study found that doctors high in empathy have patients who enjoy better health; other research suggests training doctors to be more empathic improves patient satisfaction and the doctors’ own emotional well-being.
How to Cultivate Empathy?
Here are some specific, science-based activities for cultivating empathy, also from the Greater Good Science Centre (GGSC):
- Active listening:Express active interest in what the other person has to say and make him or her feel heard.
- Shared identity:Think of a person who seems to be very different from you, and then list what you have in common.
- Put a human face on suffering:When reading the news, look for profiles of specific individuals and try to imagine what their lives have been like.
- Eliciting altruism ( encouraging kindness and generosity):Create reminders of connectedness.
How Empathetic are you?
Take the GGSC’s emotional intelligence quiz to find out!