A massive weapon called empathy.
Empathy is one of those buzzwords that is getting, as we speak, more and more milage. And to even more extent after 2008 when highly popular U.S.A. President Barack Obama said that the country had an empathy deficit that needed to be dealt with.
But, actually, the word empathy is nothing but ephemeral. It has been there since the beginning of time. Well, at least since 8th century B.C, when classic poet and writer Homer suggested it for the first time.
The fact that empathy goes back to ancient Greece should come as no surprise. These were great times for humankind. The first politically organized civilizations were formed. Democracy was taking its first steps and an unprecedented revolution in arts and culture was taking place. And for such dramatic change, empathy was certainly needed.
An orchestration of the senses
Empathy is the human capacity to use all five senses to decode an external reality that is unraveling in front of our eyes. Being empathic means that you understand how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes. Because you experienced that yourself beforehand.
This is why we get emotional when we see someone crying. Why we feel happy when a significant other is happy. Or why we feel an instinctive need to yawn when someone is yawning.
So empathy is like an orchestration of the senses. An adaptive response (in Darwin’s terminology) that makes us able to cope with the perils of living in society and the inevitability of nurturing human relationships.
The power of empathy
In the survival of the fittest, empathy comes in handy, whether talking about politics, society, business, arts, or love.
We follow and respect leaders that understand the struggles of their own people; we support social groups whose causes we can relate with; we become ambassadors of companies and brands that understand real peoples’ needs; we grow fonder of musicians that write songs that “get us”; and we become attached, and eternally grateful, to people who were there when times got tough.
Unlike sympathy or pity, empathy give us this clearness of vision and ability to understand other people and change their reality for the better. In return, the same person will try to thank you in the best way they can.
This principle of reciprocity is what makes empathy such a powerful currency. A massive weapon for social change.
For those of you who get this, you are starting from an advantage point in changing whatever reality you’re dealing with. For those of you who are too distracted by what is going on in your own mind, keep up: the fact that empathy has conquered so much attention in the last years is not a mere coincidence. As it was not centuries ago.
Now…. if you feel like doing your daily/weekly/monthly empathy exercise, just join our empathy gym by pressing the ♥ below.
If you want to learn more about our EmpaFit send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi there. I’m Ricardo Fonseca and I’m a Strategist and Brand Psychologist at comOn, an independent Full Service Digital Agency in Lisbon. Find me on twitter @rj_bush.