Empathy: The ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. It’s about placing yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they are feeling.
Did you know that 2013 was the year the word “selfie” made it into the dictionary? It’s hard to believe the word hasn’t been around that many years. It is estimated that the average person will take 25,000 selfies in their lifetime. We now live in a “selfie” world where empathy is in short supply. In fact, not only is empathy down 40 percent, but narcissism is up 30 percent—surprised?
A study from the University of Michigan compiled results examining college students over 30 years and found a 40 percent decrease in empathy over this time. The sharpest drop-o” occurred after 2000, when digital technologies started their slow creep into students’ daily lives. In fact, several of the problematic tendencies of our online behavior— comments sections, cyberbullying, and even the “Facebook envy” we get when we think everyone else’s life seems better than ours—can be attributed, at least in part, to a lack of empathy.
Philippians 2:2-4 ways, “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).
This Scripture in Philippians offers us great wisdom on how we should use social media. We should not be selfish or try to impress others by boasting about our accomplishments or endeavors. Rather we should be humble about our lives, looking out for the interest of others.
I will be honest, it is hard for me to post pictures of my vacation, and to post things like, “I have the most amazing husband,” because I know how painful it can be to read these kinds of posts.
I also feel pressure to “like” someone’s posts in order to make sure they will like mine in return. I think we need to get honest about why we post and why we like others’ posts.
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Studies show that you and I crave empathy, but on a daily basis, most of us are shown little empathy. The good news is that psychologists believe we can increase empathy throughout our lifetime. There is perhaps no other attribute more vital to help develop our relationships with others than to raise our empathy.
Four Ways to Raise Your Empathy
- Listen to understand, not just respond. Most of us don’t listen well. We nod our heads while someone is talking, but most of the time we are thinking about our response. Try listening to understand what the person is feeling as they share. Notice if their tone is high or low. Are they sad, mad, or excited?
- Develop a natural curiosity about others. To be a good listener you just have to become curious about people. Listen for a key word or phrase that you want them to expand on.
- Spend some time in another’s shoes. Ask yourself, “How does it feel to be this person? What are their dreams and fears? What is important to them? How would I respond if I was in their situation”?
- Share yourself with others. When we are transparent and honest with others, it shows we value them. Look for needs that you can meet in others and give generously of your time and attention. Let’s all work hard to help our families look up from our phones and to raise our empathy for each other.
Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd MCC, NBC-HWC, has a Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling, and a Doctorate in Leadership. Dr. Frejd’s coaching specialties are Emotional Intelligence, Women in Leadership, Starting a Coaching Business, Health and Wellness, and Spiritual Formation. View Bio