Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son.
You never walked in that man’s shoes.
--- Elvis Presley
Do you express empathy toward the people around you each day? If you are like the rest of us in our increasingly technology-mediated society, you may be expressing less empathy toward others than you think. You may also be receiving less empathy from others.
According to survey research by social psychologist Sara Konrath of Indiana University, empathy rates in the general population have decreased by approximately 40 percent over the past few decades.
In a meta-analysis of 72 studies conducted between 1979 and 2009, Konrath found that people today are much less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” (a measure of cognitive empathy, or the mental process of putting oneself in another person’s shoes).
Konrath also found that people are much less likely to agree with statements such as “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me” (which measures affective empathy, or the experience of emotions that attune to how another person is feeling).
What happens to us when we express and receive less empathy? We become disconnected from others. Our reduced social connections then lead to the toxic effects of loneliness.
Anthony Silard is the president of The Global Leadership Institute and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday every other week in your inbox and a free copy of Anthony's new audio CD, "The Surprising Source of Your Passion", enter your email here (1-step only).