The Importance of Empathy
Empathy in Today’s Digital World: We are in the “age of anger,” according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
As shared on LinkedIn, the WEF’s 2019 Global Risks Reports show that despite us living in the most interconnected era in history, feelings of isolation, anger, and disconnection have become rampant. Ironically, studies have found that despite technology giving us a convenient platform to connect, it has made it harder to make a connection.
This has led to many feeling overwhelmed, numb, and downright annoyed by those around them, online and in-person. But since technology isn’t going anywhere and we can only expect that it will play a more prominent role in our lives, moving forward — many industry leaders depend on empathy to uplift this digital world.
Why is Empathy Important?
Empathy improves communication
One of the core skills in personal and professional circles is good communication. Unfortunately, communication is one of the most heavily affected by our reliance on digital devices. Since online conversations don’t reflect the same nuances as face-to-face discussions, scientists say that we lose up to 40% of the non-verbal cues. These cues include gestures and facial expressions, which are part of how the human brain learns to read a situation.
As a result, this inability to fully understand and respond accordingly ends up carrying over to our in-person interactions. With empathy, though, we are able to read between the lines. We can infer the feelings and intent, which reduces the chances of misunderstanding another person’s message or responding in a way that will be misconstrued.
Empathy Instills Patience
Our constant access to technology has made us short-tempered and quick to take offense — regardless if it’s actually directed at us or not. As a matter of fact, studies on Cordis reveal that social media has made us angrier. Online, we feel entitled to rage, and often we are rewarded for it by likes, shares, and extra attention. But this all too often results in sparking more fights and debates than actual conversations. Hence, psychologists are counting on users to utilize a more empathetic thought process when engaging online. Over time, experts believe that this will rekindle the patience that online platforms have exhausted.
Empathy enhances well-being
Of course, aside from empathy benefitting those around us, it also helps us as individuals. With an empathetic approach, you cultivate a more positive environment. Those who practice empathy are, thus, safe from the physical dangers brought on by emotional stress, as discussed by Stellina Boccaccio. An empathetic person is also more capable of thinking rationally and clearly, so they’re able to process challenging times without compromising themselves. Overall, this results in better mental and physical health.
How We Can Encourage Empathy
So, how can we be more empathetic? Evidence suggests that although we cannot learn empathy, we can adopt it. For children and young adults, SymptomFind explains that it may be helpful to first encourage them to understand their own feelings. Whether via an emotion journal or artwork, having a medium on which they can translate how they feel will help them identify and relate with others.
Meanwhile, for adults, it may be trickier because biases are already in place. But ScienceFocus does explain that empathy can still be encouraged. This can be done via exposure to differing opinions and surrounding yourself with other empathetic models. Over time, humans tend to mirror the values we see, and in adults, this can equate to naturally becoming more understanding and respectful of others.
The online world can be very trying, and it’s easy to resort to apathy or annoyance. But it’s a tool that shouldn’t become a barrier to real connections. To make your online and offline life more meaningful, it’s important to remember the role of empathy.
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