21st century is an age of Extrospection.  Merriam-Webster dictionary meaning of Extrospection is “examination or observation of what is outside oneself”. And the simplest way of practising Extrospection is showing Empathy. Now, we all understand empathy as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and looking at the situation, think their thoughts and feel their feelings. But above all, empathy is a choice and we all make this choice of whether or not to be empathetic every moment of everyday.

But are we really empathetic? Lets find out what we have become today and what an empathetic person is?

  1. “I am the best” – The 20th century was an age of introspection.  That age taught us that the best way to discover our lives and who we are, is to look within ourselves. And that pushes us to pursuing a lifestyle through self-interest. Most of the self-help books written in the past century would teach us that. So, thanks to our ancestors, we are selfish human beings. it is unnatural for us to think of others first. Also, we like to world to think and act just like us. An empathetic person thinks about the other person’s perspective first. No, it’s not sacrificing your happiness for the others. Nope. It about being sensitive about the other person’s feelings. Most of the time, the other person is saying the same thing but with different words. Think and don’t jump to be heard.

2. “Screw it…just do it” – Our age is result oriented. We are also the age of working in teams. Working in teams can help achieve fantastic results in every area. But we get so focused on the results, that we start working in isolation. We just think about our area of work and not how our work can benefit others and vice versa in achieving a common objective. Your way might be right for you, not for others. As a team member, we need to understand where everyone is coming from and how a true collaboration can happen. It’s not just about our development, it’s about developing others and helping others to do their best. An empathetic person doesn’t rush, he thinks about others and what they want to do and then starts thinking about how his expertise and work can completed others towards the common goal.

3.  “Just listen to me” – So how often have you heard this being said to you or to others? Many time is my guess. We just want to be heard. We think we are effective listeners, but we are not. We live in an extroverted world, where “everybody needs somebody” just to hear them out. Communication has become conversations where one person is just waiting for the other person to take a breath, that pause is where he quickly jumps in and gives his views which may or may to be directly related to the topic being discussed. Also, since we like to be liked by other people, we all believe that we are empathetic towards everyone. An empathetic person hears you, he understands where you are coming from. He suggests (doesn’t impose) solutions, he empathise (not criticises). He wants to know more about it (doesn’t want to end it after the download).

4. “No one can think like me, I can make it big, if they let me” – Another disadvantage of the extroverted, self-centred society we live in. The problem is that we think too much. And when we think too much we create more problems and then the solutions to those problems, which gives us a sense of false bravery and intelligence. We don’t realise that we complicate things ourselves unnecessarily. An empathetic person has confidence in himself but in others too. He respects the other person’s expertise and opinion. He is open to suggestions and can work according to his team members rather than “singing from his own hymn sheet.” He never thinks that he is the most intelligent of the lot. He allows himself to be part of the herd and not an outlier.

So, are you empathetic? Well, truth be told, I am not. But, I am learning. How I understand empathy is “seeing from the eyes of another, listening to from the ears of another and feeling from the heart of another.” Which is a herculean task. But atleast am trying.

It’s a long life and it can be lonely sometimes. Every body requires somebody who has their back. Which side do you want to be on is your choice.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments section. Until next time.

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123 thoughts on “Empathy is a Choice !!

  1. I love this post. I am in training to co facilitate support groups for people with mental health issues. One of the training sessions focused on empathy. Listening skills are essential and helping people to come to their own conclusions is the best gift you can give some one. There is a fine balance between empathy and sympathy. I too am trying to learn too be more empathetic.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The irony is that almost every world religion has tenants that require their followers to show empathy, to be kind, and an extremely high percentage of people claim to be followers of these religions. Yet, so few know how to show true empathy or compassion for anyone not on their agenda. It’s truly sad. As a novice buddhist I have a note that pops up on my computer and my phone every time I turn it on that says, “live a life of compassion.” If we could all learn to do this the world we be a drastically different place. But it is hard to turn the focus away from the self.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Love this post, I’m a big fan of people learning how to travel from the IQ realm that most of us live in and connect to the EQ realm of self, that helps us understand where the resistance comes from. As the great Napoleon HIll taught us: ‘We find what we look for”

    Keep up the awesome work.

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  4. Humanity as a whole symbolizes a toddler who constantly cries and misses the mark because we’re still growing up. Our ancestors were undeniably barbaric, although the dark ages are well enough into the past that one would think we’d be able to get our ducks in order. I know we’re on our way, but we’ll certainly have to crawl before we can even begin to run.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have learned that my own failures and weaknesses have been my greatest lessons in teaching me to have empathy and compassion for others.
    All of life’s successes and challenges can be used to lend a hand to others if only we would have a servants heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I so agree with number three. I get so upset sometimes from just spending my days listening…its exhausting. People do just need to talk and download is such a good word for it. I don’t agree with you title though. For me being empathic is part of who I am it’s been very hard to step back and think about myself. I still struggle with that now after years of practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sorry to respectfully disagree, but if society believes that empathy is a choice, they will fail to protect themselves from morally disordered people. Empathy is created by nueropeptides in the brain. If you read DSM, the bible for Mental Health Practitioners, and calculate the volume of society that lacks empathy, you’ll see that prediction can run as high as 13% of society.

    There are actually 3 types of empathy. Not everyone has all three. Fortunately, most people do. And until you’re harmed by someone who doesn’t, you tend to think everyone has it. We need to educate society to understand that there are psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists in the world.

    So while “showing empathy” is a choice empathetic people can make in their day-to-day lives, “having empathy” is not. And just because a person “shows” empathy, does not mean they actually have it. They could be doing so in order to fool you.

    Empathy is much more complex than people think.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this post! I myself am naturally very empathetic, even from a my child I was. It’s a gift but can be somewhat of a curse, at times. I’m getting better at controlling it, when need be. I think the world could definitely use a few million more empaths… I always talk about this with my blogger friends. Very interesting topic. 👍

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rightly said Dear. We often tell this in our soft skills training of our doctors and nurses that when a patient or their family asks you something, give a one breathe space before answering. This one breathe will give you a chance to process what the other person is saying and prevent you from giving rehearsed answers which might not be applicable to the patient. Thanks for sharing four thoughts dear.
      Best to you

      Like

  9. Interesting topic. 20% of people are Highly Sensitive as am I. Part of our trait is among others our ability to be empathetic… rarely do we have a single thought our thought process consists of sub thoughts and sub sub thoughts if you like which means we look at all aspects from all angles. We are empathetic – which sometimes means you can be taken advantage of – and very aware of our surroundings it’s simply the way we are wired. Thank you for liking my post. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such profound meaning you have shared of being empathetic. Our minds are indeed enigmatic, story which is yet to be unfolded. For if we control our minds, we control everything, and that is powerful. Thanks for visiting my blog.
      Best to you

      Like

  10. Funny how many of us speak of empathy, but few actually know what it is… as you say, it’s a choice each one makes, whether to or not to be empathetic. Actually, life doesn’t quite expect any of us to be empathetic all the time. Yet, more often than not, when a situation arises and it’s staring us in the face, we turn away… not because we don’t want to be empathetic… but because we don’t recognize the need for it at that point. If we were to spare some time to reflect on this, we would realize it’s because of our self-absorption. But then this world is full of narcissists — with little room for empathy.
    It’s an interesting take you have here, but above all, yes, you said, “You’re learning.” That’s a great start in itself. (But then who am I to even make a statement such as that! I should take that back.) Thanks. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A lot of what I feel about this connects to my 12 years in the optical industry. I sell glasses for a living, and what I have learned is you need to let people be heard, acknowledge what is wrong, and then work to correct it.

    I feel a ton of empathy is in steps: 1. Allow their point of view to be heard. This module is broken down by first listening and then reiterating their point of view. You must facilitate their right to be heard. Do this not by parroting their comments, but by dovetailing your interpretation of their views with your expression of their shared experience. 2. Talk about a game plan. What will we do to make it right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, I can completely understand where you are coming from. Conversations have been forgotten in the age of texting and instant messages. We are always expressing, thinking something else when someone talking to us. There will soon be a time when listening to someone will be long forgotten. Listening for me is being mindful.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Best to you

      Like

  12. I agree, today we can only have the two second conversation before someone is distracted. Listening is being present with no other agenda but to hear that person’s story. But, it seems so many of us are starved for someone to listen to us. Have our overly busy lives resulted in less conversation, less socialization? All of us so eager to get that time in when someone will listen to us. It seems, a time ago, it was not like that.
    As far as self-help and development goes. I am not convinced that is the core reason why we have become more self-absorbed. From my perspective, there is a whole lot of people out there that need alot more inner examination and to be able to make changes outwardly for the better of themselves and those around them. How can you really understand others if you have no understanding of yourself?
    As far as the subject of empathy. Here are some thoughts and perspectives I have come to realize, if I may?
    Empathy is becoming more and more extiinct, which I believe was a point you addressed. Or that is the perspective I gained from your blog post. I believe Empathy is not a choice. I believe it is a personality trait. Just as some people are more outgoing, while others are more introverted. Can one learn empathy? I believe so, yes. As with any skill, you can learn, and continue to practice to master your craft. As listening can also be mastered. Communication and having a full shiny box of tools for communication is not acquired but gained & practiced.
    Empathy is something that some have more than others. That is just a personality trait that they come with. That doesn’t mean that they need practice too. It just means that comes more naturally and easily for some, then for others. Just as outgoing is an innate trait for some, while an introvert would have to learn and probably struggle at becoming an extrovert.
    Even so, I do believe that this world has become alot less sensitive to others and their needs. There seems to be less support, and when a drowning hand reaches out, others float by as if they see nothing, obilivious to reach out to the hand in need. If they see no gain in taking hold of the drowning hand, they float by. Today, from what my experiences have been and many of those around me, society has become over populated with narcissist’s. And narcissists feed off empathic individuals! They devour them! But so many adore a narcissist! They are often outgoing, the life of the party, funny, charismatic and very cunning and deviant. And make no excuses for there self servient ways. They are not accountable for their actions at all and will turn any self examination about them, onto you. And everyone around them will believe them and follow them. It is epidemic in this society and increasing.

    Empaths are complete opposite’s of the narcissist. They are often giving, caring people. Not always confident with themselves, but aware of their empathic nature. I encourage those interested to read about what an empath is. For their personality trait is what comes naturally to them, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to survive in this world. They often isolate, steer clear of encounters with others. They also are often very intuitive individuals. Granted all of us have an intuitive sense that is our driving partner to life. Intuitive empaths are a breed apart.
    Then there is the HSP’s (highly sensitive people). They are often empathic individiuals. Lots of info. out there on the net on all of them and their innate nature of being.
    It doesn’t make them perfect, and it doesn’t make them skilled listeners. But what they most likely possess is the ability to see another’s story as if they were walking in their shoes. They have this uncanny ability to identify with another’s story, with little effort, and connect. Empathy is about connecting and unity. It leaves no room for division and judgement.
    But empaths are human too and they too have limitations, just as anyone else does.

    Now, that I have written an entire blog post……ha! ha! oops! Your post inspired me to speak out and that is connection, even if we have different views, I believe it is important to relate to one another in the commonalities of life, not the differences.

    Like

  13. Interesting perspectives – thanks for blog. ‘He wants to know more about it (doesn’t want to end it after the download).’ – So very true of so many in today’s world!

    Liked by 1 person

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