|Interesting discussion with Davide Newton-Dines (Consultant Yorkshire) regarding empathy@David Newton-Dines – Thanks for the ‘enlightenment’ – a appropriate visual word. I also have been taught about ‘hard wired’ empathy and agree with the teachings.
So David, are we not ‘hard wired’ with all of our 5 senses? If so, only one of the 5 is feeling or kinesthetic (internal and external feelings) – correct?
I certainly understand, as you so well put, to feel as others feel. And we are all aware that each of us can feel differently. What you are leaving out, based on my over 40 year study of human behavior, is that we all see things differently, hear things differently, taste and smell things differently as well.
Therefore, ‘true empathy’ is to identify with others in as many sensory perceptions as possible. When we walk in another’s shoes, we must first take off our own. In your writings, you express your feelings very well; however, I miss what you see and hear.
Even your words are mostly kinesthetic. I was excited with your opening, as you used the visual word ‘enlighten’. Thank you for expressing how you feel.
@Rossi. Let me enlighten you. This is the shortened version.
Unless there is some form of abnormality in brain function, every child has empathy ‘hard wired’. If it ‘exists’ in us all, what happens to it, why do we all not show it all the time?
Basically, it either develops or is suppressed through childhood into adulthood. Great parenting reinforces and grows it, whilst not great (and by that I do not mean bad) parenting causes it to become buried somewhat. Schools formulaic approach impacts too but to a lesser extent.
Before moving on, let’s define the empathy we are talking about here. This type of empathy is principally about feeling that which others feel – the very same emotions. It’s also about making sure that the person you are empathising with understands that you are feeling those same feelings so the feeding back is vital too. In a support type environment, say in Customer Services, their part is to act upon that information in an appropriately supportive manner.
Back to childhood. Empathy is about feelings so those feeling will range from ecstasy to grief. Mostly as children we are taught the negative aspects as the lessons are normally about considering others more than anything else. So, effectively what a good parent does is ensure their child feels more negativity. No it’s not some kind of torture, it’s about learning priceless skills designed to make them a better, more successful person in both personal and business terms long term. When your child experiences how they might have made another feel by their actions, or inactions, it’s not very nice; this means you have to support them as it takes genuine courage to go to a bad place you are not forced to go to. The child has to understand that it’s a temporary thing, simply a tool they use to be a better, more considerate and complete human being. As this supported child grows, with developed empathy (the core of emotional intelligence) they develop genuine emotional intelligence through the reading, understanding and effective communication that emotional intelligence delivers of others and their needs.
’Not good’ parenting is not supporting your child. As your child naturally empathises it hurts them and they don’t know why. The consequences of a lack of parental support is that they bury it, block it out, as no one (especially children) will willingly subject themselves to pain if there is no apparent gain.
So empathy already exists in, essentially, everyone. We typically label people with well defined empathy (i.e. from good parenting) ‘people people’ and those with buried empathy – everything else we can lay our tongues to!
What I do is tease the buried empathy out into the daylight. I’m often told it’s not possible, that it’s something you are ‘born with’, but that’s nonsense. What I’ve discovered, is that there are very few individuals who do not respond very well indeed to our teasing. The overwhelming majority of people have never had a wish to hurt another human being and when you take them through the same emotions they cause in others their reaction is one of abject horror. The single most common phrase used is, “I had no idea!” (of the consequences of their actions or inactions on others). Once taken through that, they are forever changed…
Just as with a child, those (re) emerging skills have to be nurtured for them to become subconsciously competent. The environment in which the individuals who have been teased sit, can either reinforce or re-bury their empathy. By environment I mean specifically the organisation’s culture. Just as with parenting, the business must support those IT is exposing to these emotions. If the business is a typical blame culture (no matter how it’s dressed up) what empathy has been raised will very quickly be buried again as the individuals concerned seek to protect themselves.
Hope that makes sense.