The benefits of empathy

In a culture like today’s, which is steeped in beliefs and practices of self-sacrifice (essentially, sitting on one’s needs) as well as domination (sacrificing others’ needs), how would things be different if empathy were believed in and practiced instead? I had a conversation recently with my friend Edwin of http://cultureofempathy.com about the benefits of empathy. He’s constructed a remarkable webpage about these multifaceted benefits, which is still a work in progress; in many ways the page is illustrative of the metaphor that Edwin uses to describe the empathetic process: a cornucopia.

After our discussion, I emailed him a list of benefits of empathy that I consider essential, which is posted below (you can also find it on his page linked above). Undoubtedly, a lot of overlap exists between giving and receiving empathy, yet some differences can be experienced too. Our need for empathy is of course universal, and I imagine it will be much more emphasized in society when people realize the costly nature (to self and others) of various non-empathetic strategies, perspectives, and especially systems—and, in turn, realize the life-enriching nature of the following:

For giving:
Builds trust—thus allows for transparency of oneself
Allows authentic self to come forward (rather than defenses of self, or masks)
Enables focus on what truly matters between human beings, i.e., honest expression of what’s alive in them
Takes one out of the realm of life-alienating communication (e.g., NVC’s four Ds–Diagnoses, Demands, Deserve-oriented thinking, Denial of responsibility)
Can gain real understanding of another
Enables clear and helpful expressions of caring and concern
Sends message to another of acceptance (rather than apathy or opposition)
Enables remedies and solutions to arise naturally
Can foster an intimate connection

For receiving:
Builds trust—thus allows for transparency of oneself
Allows authentic self to come forward (rather than defenses of self, or masks)
Enables one to feel accepted and understood–really heard (rather than being moralistically judged)
Can gain a nourishing sense of visibility, i.e., being seen for who one wants to be and really is
Can feel satisfaction about how one is being perceived and viewed
Dissolves defenses and promotes attuned relaxation with self and others
Can foster the practice of self-empathy
Enables feeling cared for and even loved
Can cultivate a deep appreciation for human connection and understanding
Enables remedies and solutions to arise naturally
Can foster intrinsic motivation

For systems, when practiced consistently:
Builds trust—thus allows for transparency of persons and reveals the systemic constraints on them
Invites individuals to be fully real, genuine, rather than to wear masks and play roles
Shifts focus from following rules and policies to identifying feelings and meeting human needs
Enables systems to work for individuals, instead of demands that individuals work for systems
Dissolves systemic barriers to understanding and intimacy about what’s really alive in persons
Makes coercion and punishment impossible
Makes sacrifice of individuals impossible
Enables win/win interactions, in which everyone feels heard, understood, and is respected
Generates a functional system that enables everyone to flourish, which replaces a dysfunctional one that sacrifices human needs
Fosters lasting systemic changes that ensure safety, security, and dignity for everyone
Enables each person to be 100% responsible for themselves, their thoughts, feelings, needs, desires, and actions

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
Share
HC Blog

Comments are closed.