Post No.: 0059
Empathy could be the key to peace and harmony. A lack of empathy is associated with prejudice, aggression, bullying, rape and abusive parenting, to name just a few things that are generally undesirable in society. When we think of others and not just ourselves then we can achieve better long-term and bigger-picture outcomes because we’re social animals, and cooperation typically results in a greater payoff for all overall. Together we tend to become greater than the mere sum of our fuzzy parts. In economics, there are similar advantages called economies of scale (from having greater volumes), economies of scope (from having greater diversity) and economies of density (greater efficiencies from being closer together).
Empathic people tend to live happier lives and report higher levels of relationship satisfaction, and tend to reach better-negotiated outcomes when bargaining with another side (e.g. avoiding deadlocks that are good for neither side). Low empathy scores actually predict abusive parenting behaviours more accurately than life stress i.e. more than just because of facing stressful life events, parents become abusive because they lack enough empathy.
‘Affective empathy’ is about mirroring the emotions of another person e.g. feeling happy when someone else feels happy. ‘Cognitive empathy’ is about imagining how someone else is thinking or feeling, particularly when one imagines if one were in that person’s situation. So, for example, with the former kind of empathy you’d actually cry if another person was crying although you may not understand why, and with the latter kind of empathy you’d understand the other person is crying and what it may mean but with this kind of empathy alone you wouldn’t mirror that emotion and actually feel it yourself. Possessing both kinds of empathy towards others is most beneficial for society.
Affective empathy is quite consistent regardless of whether the other person is in our social ingroup or is from an outgroup, but cognitive empathy is dependent on one’s group identity. If you empathise with one side, you may end up making enemies out of another side though, so maybe we cannot please everybody all of the time – or maybe we can if we’re willing to compromise and/or not be too exclusive with our attention to one side or another.
Now the difference between empathy and compassion is that compassion compels us to actually want to act and do something about our empathic feelings with others – to actually want to do something in order to alleviate someone else’s suffering.
So we should try to ‘put ourselves in another person’s shoes’ to try to understand what they’re feeling, and this can make us less egocentric and care more about this other person, but a limitation is that we may guess incorrectly what another person is truly feeling inside – hence one should also ask questions about how another person is feeling to better truly understand what they’re feeling. Asking and listening to the answer to the question ‘how are you feeling?’ is more accurate than trying to mind-read people, where we can jump to the wrong conclusions. You may not always get a truthful answer if you ask at the inappropriate times or places (e.g. when they’re not ready to reveal to you what they’re really thinking and how they’re really feeling) but that’s better than incorrectly guessing based on your own assumptions.
Regarding animal welfare and rights (and possibly even robot welfare and rights in the future?) – it’s arguably not about whether they can reason or talk but can they suffer? Woof.
‘Introspection’ is about looking within oneself for answers, whilst ‘outrospection’ is about looking through the lives of other people for answers or stepping into somebody else’s world. Contrary to former wisdom, we should be more outrospective than introspective. Try to understand another person’s worldview, beliefs, fears, experiences, upbringing, culture, etc. to understand that person. This not only helps you to become more empathic and compassionate but also improves your own creativity and opens opportunities for you because you’re welcoming everybody you can.
Fluffystealthkitten is a frisky furmiliar cat and I am a frisky furmiliar dog – different species of magic frisky furmiliars – yet we get on so well and have lots of adventures and fun together… if only I can find her half of the time that is, which is quite bizarre because you’d think she’d stand out everywhere for being a blue and white kitten.
Look up, I’m over here puppy! I cloak with the sky. Meow.
Okay, so how do I get down again? Oh dear…