Empathy

All About Empathy

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner. Although there may be a genetic basis to empathy, research suggests it is possible to boost your capacity for empathic understanding.

As a society, it may seem at times that we are becoming more individualistic and self-centered, but neurological research confirms that humans and other social animals, especially primates, are equipped with "mirror neurons," which give us the capacity to display, read and mimic emotional signals through facial expressions and other forms of body language. Mirror neurons help us share emotional experiences and become more empathic toward others. 

Can You Be Too Empathic?

Unlike sympathy, which simply means feeling sadness or pity for someone who is undergoing some type of hardship, empathy promotes selfless compassion and action on behalf of another person or group of people. While this sounds like a positive, highly ethical and well-principled practice, some people believe having too much empathy can be detrimental to one's own well-being and even to the world at large. Too much empathy interferes with rational decision-making, causing us to lead with our hearts rather than by our heads, losing the broader picture or long-term consequences of overly empathic behavior.

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