great blue heron

empathy down (part 1)

I felt excited this weekend when i saw two headlines discussing empathy. i thought, cool! i’ll be able to produce some earth shattering, completely up-lifting post on empathy. it ain’t going to happen. don’t blame me, blame the material.

the first article, the science of empathy—and why some people have it less than others peaked my interest. i figured it would come from a point of understanding creates and abundance of empathy and the people who don’t get, have to catch up. not quite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit started off well enough talking about the importance of corporate empathy towards breeding success. they stated customers who feel empathy are more liking to be happy customers. happy customers are more likely to open their wallets. before any worker hits the apple retail store floor, the go through hours of training including a good dose of empathy training.

empathy also generate inter-company success. they pointed to the fact that empathic managers are more likely to have successful teams.

then, the articles came off the rails.

imagethey pointed to five studies that time again, showed that people, as a whole, who had experience some pain were <em>less empathic</em> to those going through a similar pain. people who had been bullied showed less compassion toward people who found themselves being bullied. also, people who had completed a polar bear plunge, jumping into ice cold waters, showed less compassion as compare to those who hadn’t done the plunge, to those who had planned but couldn’t take the plunge. I found that surprising. I figured that the experience would make people more likely to feel empathy.

they went on to devalue the “walk a mile in their shoes” idea. they end with a message of, “and managers should be aware that sharing an experience with an employee may make them less likely to view that person compassionately.” they do give one feeble attempt to explain that, but the article truly left me wanting more. they spend too much time talking about the research and not enough time talking about reaching an emphatic place.

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