Friday, February 05, 2010

The little empathy competition

… To restate the problem, consider that empathy is the ability to feel an accurate representation of what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. Two people who are very similar are, in some sense, already in each other’s shoes, so empathy has less of a role to play. Regardless, two such people may subconsciously recognize that they are in similar positions, and the emotional experience of this recognition they report to be empathy, where in fact the feeling is just the feeling of having something in common with another (this is empathy too). For someone who shares little in common, with others, however, experiencing empathy requires much more work. If I have no interest in sports but my friend is exclaiming frustration about the performance of their favorite team, I may need to consciously remind myself not to laugh in their face so that they may continue the illusion that I am on the same page as they are. In this case, I’m the one who is empathizing, they are not. If they don’t notice that I’m not interested and I manage to build on their enthusiasm, I’ve won the little empathy competition, right?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mountaineer said...

If you feel like laughing, are you actually empathizing? And, I think empathy reduces competition. Maybe you are writing tongue-in-cheek?

6:09 PM  
Anonymous dr perfection said...

I empathize with myself

5:01 PM  

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