Emplify as in amplifying empathy, is a social venture that uses experiential learning to provide growth experiences to individuals and organizations, to bridge socially constructed differences between people giving them self-awareness tools, so they can understand each other better. Since empathy is at the core of our program, let’s dive into this often misunderstood buzzword a little more deeply.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial behavior (from psychology today)
We can think of empathy being on a spectrum where it gets deeper as you get farther along the spectrum, its not just a monolith. So, usually you start with cognitive empathy, which is about understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense. Then you have emotional empathy, which is when you have arrived at a point where you are actually embodying and feeling someone else’s emotions, and the last piece is compassionate empathy, when you have been sufficiently moved to take action to improve that other person’s situation or help them in some way.
Why should you care?
Without empathy we can’t have emotional intelligence which is key to developing and sustaining all human relationships. In a necessarily collaborative world, where the complexities of our global connections highlight the need for EQ even more, we can no longer aspire to the low bar of tolerance, we need to aspire to a greater harmony and deeper understanding of one another.
Even when we think about work, there has been so much research and several credible articles about how diverse teams are more creative and perform better than homogenous ones because the customer base they serve is not homogenous, so it makes a lot of sense. At the same time, simply collecting a group of diverse individuals and putting them in the same zoom room together is not going to achieve these results, you actually have to construct the ability for them to feel the safety and belonging that will enable them to do their best work. And this is where empathy plays a key role in creating those safe and welcoming spaces and team cultures.
We want to sit on the couch and watch tv for hours while eating pint after pint of ice cream, but we exhort ourselves to head to the gym instead, why? Because we know that our body needs it, that it will bring improvements to many facets of our lives. Much in the same way, we could allow ourselves to be completely led by our “lizard” brain and continue to make binary judgments about all people and situations that we encounter, but we know that is detrimental to our existence, so we must enroll our selves in a different type of gym in order to build our empathy muscles.
Can everyone exhibit empathy?
YES! Nearly every human has the capacity for empathy, whether or not it has been tapped into is another matter but nearly all of us, save about 3-5% of the population who may be sociopathic or have some kind of brain differences, but most of us DO have this capacity. The thing to understand though is that even though some people’s personalities or social conditioning may make them more apt to exhibit empathy, it is innate to most of us, may be dormant for those who are not exhibiting it, or are exhibiting it selectively. It’s like building any muscle, most of us have the muscles but we have to do the work to build them up and empathy is absolutely something that we can master through learning and practice.
Most people do exhibit empathy, however they exhibit it selectively. They may only exhibit it in their family and friend circles or however they personally define their community. By helping people expand the circle of humans toward whom they exhibit empathy we may also be able to expand their definition of community to include people with varied and divergent backgrounds.