the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so to speak, and to seek to understand their feelings and point of view, is a character trait that may benefit society and individuals in multiple ways.
3 Different Types of Empathy
1. Cognitive empathy: This type allows you to understand another person’s perspective and imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.
2. Personal distress: Sometimes referred to as social empathy, this allows you to literally feel another person’s emotional state.
3. Empathic concern: This describes not only recognizing and feeling in-tune with another person’s emotional state but also showing the appropriate concern or trying to help them as a result.
Here’s the Proof
Because we’re all hard-wired to feel empathy, you can train yourself to be more empathetic, even when it comes to strangers. Lack of empathy is responsible for many human conflicts, particularly those that occur between people from different nationalities and cultures. A 2011 University of Zurich study showed, however, that even a few positive experiences with a stranger increase empathetic brain responses toward them.
Participants were divided into two groups and received shocks to the back of their hands. Other study participants had the option of paying money so someone else could avoid the painful experience. When a person received help from a stranger, they had an increased brain response in empathy toward that person.
In the opposite way, various studies have shown that screen addictions can lead to changes in the brain’s gray matter. As screen time increases, kids can lose acuity in several important areas, including impulse control, organization and planning skills, and the ability to empathize with others.
If too much screen time saps their brains of impulse control and the ability to reason, they face greater risks for early sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and other high-risk decision making. Scientists are finding screens don’t divorce kids from just the real world, but the consequences of living in that world.
Seek to Understand
One researcher suggests to more easily seek to understand: Put down your cell phone. Instead of checking Instagram or reading articles while you wait for in line or are stuck in a traffic jam, look at the people around you and imagine who they might be, what they might be thinking and feeling, and where they are trying to go right now. Are they frustrated? Happy? Singing? Looking at their phones? Do they live here or are they from out of town? Have they had a nice day? Try to actually wonder and care.
Check out this short video by Brene Brown.