Key Point: I think I am a very positive, upbeat, and generally happy person. For the longest time, I wasn’t very tolerant of other people’s negative emotions. Frankly, I oversimplified their situation and while I knew I should be empathetic, my inside voice was often… “Oh stop feeling sorry for yourself… Suck it up… Geez.” So the research at PLOS ONE gave me some insight on my long-standing approach and mindset, (which has hopefully become somewhat more enlightened).
The study suggests that: “People who are generally cheerful are not so great at reading other people’s negative emotions, though what’s especially interesting is that they think they’re very good at it. Researchers asked the participants both how happy they tended to be from day to day, and how empathetic they considered themselves. The cheerier volunteers tended to tell the researchers that they were more empathetic, too, when compared to their not-quite-so-happy study subject counterparts. Participants with a more upbeat personality believed their accuracy on this task to be higher than others. However, the speakers had conducted an identical rating process on their own videos, and it turns out the happier participants were no closer to the true feelings than the more downbeat participants. In fact, happy participants found it harder to judge the emotional tone of a highly negative monologue, in which a participant described the death of a parent.”
This research reminds me that becoming more empathetic requires ongoing development and practice. As an example, I’m learning from the following framework called the empathy wheel:
Mirrored Empathy: This involves Emotional empathy of others by reflecting others in us and recognizing ourselves being reflected by others.
Imaginative Empathy: This is based on the sense of self-awareness, when we recognize ourselves as separate beings. We can imagine being someone else or imagine being another person, animal, object, etc. and take on the role of that.
Empathic Action: This means responding in an appropriate way to the other by holding their needs, values, feelings, (common humanity) etc. in mind in the action process.
- Learn how to think and apply empathy in a more complete way by following the framework of the above empathy wheel.
- Recognize that learning how to be empathetic is an ongoing self-discovery process. It is necessary for becoming more inclusive, and of course, the first place to apply sincere empathy is within us.
Wheel of empathy in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Egads! This hits home… I might as well be the poster boy for a cheery person who BELIEVES they are empathetic. I guess it’s not funny, but to be candid, I don’t mind acknowledging this has likely led to me being labeled as “dismissive” from time to time. It’s confusing but interesting, because I, and many other millennials really do genuinely care about other people’s dilemmas. I have an innate intent to find quick solutions for their qualms. In fact, I enjoy “helping” with other’s issues much more than discussing my own… Perhaps I was raised in a “suck it up” atmosphere… ^, haha, (which, btw, I personally couldn’t be more thankful for). Trouble is, millennials like me need to learn that sometimes people of all ages only need to “vent the issue” and that whole “easy fix/quick solution” from us, isn’t so useful or wanted from the other party. In fact, it can appear more like a “so what? That’s no big deal.” We wish it didn’t, but… Hence, sometimes that’s how we earn our good ole occasional “dismissive” badge. Excuse me; I’ll just be taking this empathy wheel home for some further study sessions.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis