Can you imagine how cold it would be to live in a world where nobody cared how you felt or stopped to listen to understand your thoughts? It would likely be one characterized by loneliness and feelings of isolation. Empathy and compassion are both admirable qualities to have, and they make the world a warmer place. Having these qualities can make it possible for you to connect with people on a deeper level.
Empathy is defined by Merriam-webster as understanding and being aware of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others. Without empathy, it’s likely that people would often feel misunderstood and rejected
Dr. Brene Brown says that, “empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable one” and this can be deemed true. When you choose empathy, you allow yourself to feel what others are feeling. In a number of Brown’s works, she reinforces the idea that empathy can help you experience a more fulfilled life and richer relationships. So, you may be asking yourself, why is empathy so important?
Why Is Empathy Needed?
Empathy and compassion are needed in everyday life, especially when interacting with others. Without these two things, it can be difficult to maintain healthy relationships. This is because they help you exhibit kind and loving behavior to your loved ones, which helps reinforce the relationship.
For instance, doing something that offends your friend can cause them to feel hurt or angry. When you have empathy, you’re more likely to understand what they’re upset about, see things from their point of view, and apologize. This demonstration of empathy and compassion can make your friend feel respected, understood, and loved. Empathy reaffirms relationships and keeps the love alive.
If more parents incorporated empathy into their parenting, we may find that more kids grow up to value it. One of the best ways to teach them empathy is by addressing and acknowledging their emotional distress. Showing them how to be compassionate and empathetic is a way to prepare them for showing it to others in the real world.
In the business world, empathy and compassion are also needed. When empathy is undervalued in the workplace, it could lead to staff feeling unappreciated or as though they don’t matter. For example, being agreeable is a character trait that’s valued in the workplace. However, to be agreeable you need to have compassion and understand where others are coming from. Not only do employees need empathy and compassion, but employers also need it, too. A 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Study by BusinessSolver found 96% of employees believed their employers should demonstrate empathy.
Careers That Thrive From Empathy
A number of careers thrive from empathy, especially ones that are people-centered. If you’re full of empathy and compassion, consider any of the careers below.
A nurse’s primary role is to care for patients, so this requires the ability to understand patient’s emotional wellbeing. Nurses are also learning to be more empathetic by shifting to trauma-informed care. This means asking questions like “What happened to you?” as opposed to focusing on what’s wrong with them. This approach helps nurses better understand the traumatic experiences patients have had to endure that brought them to the point of needing professional help in the first place.
A disadvantage of having empathy as a nurse is that it can make you more susceptible to burnout. This can be classified as compassion fatigue and it’s commonly experienced by nurses. Worrying about how people are and having to empathize with their struggles can be emotionally draining after a while. With that being said, always stop and recharge to avoid this.
If you’ve ever been to see a therapist before, you know their work consists of sitting down and listening to people talk. Without compassion, it would be hard to listen to the anxieties, fears, and heartbreaks of other people. To be a therapist, you need a lot of room in your heart as well as empathy to connect with your clients. Compassion-focused therapy especially has been proven to effectively treat long-term emotional problems. This is because compassion is used to address feelings of shame and self-criticism which often trigger mental health.
Another career path that would require both empathy and compassion is social work. This job focuses on improving the wellbeing of individuals and society at large. Empathy is needed to understand other people’s needs and comfort those going through tough times. Although listening to people’s problems on an ongoing basis can be overwhelming, it can also be rewarding.
The thought of living in a utopian world where everyone considers the feelings of their neighbor can evoke positive feelings. You can make such a world a reality by starting with yourself. By showing compassion and empathy to those around you, you’re creating the kind of world you want to live in.
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Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.