Let’s Hypothesize: empathy, self-knowlegde

In this segment of ‘Let’s Hypothesize’ I want to argue that scoring high on empathy will also you will have more self-knowledge, which ultimately makes things easier for you to understand. With empathy, we’re able to understand what others around us are feeling. This means that we can validate feelings of those around us (we understand what they’re feeling anyway) and we can actively help them in times of need. We feel happy for those who are doing great things or we feel for those going through rough patches. We let a lady line jump us at the grocery store because she’s in a hurry to visit her sister in the hospital. Or we let our friend have half of our sandwich because they’re really hungry.

Here I want to give you my take on how self-knowledge can shape your empathetic senses. Often we hear people unable to understand why others are feeling a certain way. In turn, these people might react badly to their situation and feelings. They might tell the person to ‘just man up’ or to ‘stop exaggerating’. Or, even worse, they will come up with a story to prove that they were once in a situation much worse than them.

On top of my head, I think empathy has been linked to recognizing our own internal states. This means being able to tell when we’re feeling hungry or need sleep. This might seem like things we should all be able to do but it’s not that self-evident. For instance, some people might start to feel moody when hungry and are unable to make the connection between their moodiness and hunger. The question is why some people are able to clearly make this distinction and accurately interpret their feelings while others aren’t. Is this because people have learned to understand these feelings or is it an inherited trait? Do you need some kind of emotional intelligence in order to do so?

To be able to understand and interpret others’ feelings, naturally, you should be able to understand your own first. But not only understand the feelings in itself but also how situations can affect people. For instance, this means recognizing that people might get annoyed if you were to repeatedly kick their seat at the movies. Thus, you must understand how feelings emerge and ultimately, you must care what it does to others. Of course, there are people who can perfectly understand how someone is feeling, but it doesn’t mean they care. Because they might reason that it isn’t happening to themselves, so it doesn’t matter. All in all, the ability to empathize is affected by an array of factors.

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