A Big Question in Life: Why is Empathy Important?

In the high-technology era, the world has been even crazier that you and I may sit next to each other in public transportation without saying a single thing at all. Even if we knew each other, it could happen as well. With a smart phone in each of our hands, no more interaction is needed. Not to mention empathy.

Have you seen a pregnant woman standing up in a crowded commuter-line as nobody wants to give their seats to her? No worries, you’re not the only one who has seen it. This is a big mad world with very small empathy. So, why is empathy important? I’ve given you some clues in the first two paragraphs; now find out the answer below.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to feel what others feel. Empathy supports social senses of a human being that really comes from his/her heart, not from any enforcement. That will lead you and me to act more compassionately with each other. Furthermore, there have been many studies that show the possibility to improve one’s empathic ability.

In the past few years, neuroscientists have been developing the “mirror neurons” concept aimed to promote the capacity to scan and imitate signals of human emotions through gestures, facial expressions, and other types of body language.

The concept may be a help for a person to share his/her experiences of emotions and show more empathy to others. The importance of mirror neurons is still an argument between the pros and cons, though.

So, Why is Empathy Important?

Yes, the next question will be: why is empathy important? Before I begin to answer it, I’ll give you another clue, i.e. we’re not talking about a small scope here. Some of us still think empathy is a small factor that leads humans to do good deeds to others. Nope, I’m afraid that’s not what I’m going to bring up. Empathy is more than meets the eye.

1. Humans are social beings

Our perspectives towards humans as social beings may be different, but it’s undeniable that most activities we do involve interactions among all of us. Thus, the ability to comprehend others better as well as read their emotions and feelings are excellence to the ones who possess them.

The perks of having better empathy are to read the others’ real motives, understand the ways the others look at you, be more objective in solving problems—as you get to see both positive and bad sides of every story, be wiser in making decisions, and finally get respects from the others as you always try to treat them decently.

2. It may enhance your career and business

No matter what career or business you have been running and whether you work as an employee or an entrepreneur, empathy can widely open your opportunities—especially the good ones.

Good cooperation both in business and among colleagues are usually built on trust and trust is what you get when you understand the needs and expectations of the other parties well. To do so, what you need in the first place is not more or less than empathy.

3. It puts aside the boundaries between you and the people with non-verbal communication

With empathy, you will be able to read between the lines within the conversations you are having with those who cannot really express their feelings with words. That’s because you are speaking to them through your heart.

4. Convincing and motivating the others have never been easier

Having empathy means you are able to look at the world from many other people’s points of view as you have given your best efforts to “put yourselves in their shoes.” This also means you can master in convincing and motivating others in different ways to see your perspectives or goals. This personal approach is very important in life—especially if you are a leader, commander, preacher, motivator, or trainer.

5. It lets you live your life to the fullest

Being strong at empathy allows you to get to perceive the world through many points of view. Once you reach that, don’t be surprised to see the unexpected—like a prediction or even premonition. No worries, though, it only means that you have broadened your horizons and lived your life to the fullest.

Being Too Empathetic will Kill You?

While sympathy just means feeling the sorrow or grief that someone is going through, empathy encourages you to take compassionate actions to the others—no matter how they treat you. I know, it sounds too positive and right, doesn’t it? In fact, it is actually too naive to show your empathy without being rational at all.

Furthermore, too much empathy will definitely interfere with your logic in making decisions, resulting in you following only your heart rather than your brain, and finally endangering yourself with many risks you are unaware exist—because you are thinking too positive.

So, now that you have found the answer to a big question in life: “why is empathy important?”, you have also known the downsides of being too empathetic. Empathy is basically something that makes us human, so simply be a human. You’re not an angel; don’t ever take it too far. Enjoy every second of your life!

Narcissistic Behavior: What to do about them?

We all know that we are living in a technology era where it is possible even to take pictures of ourselves anytime and anywhere, as well as beautify them on a photo editor app all at once with a handy gadget called smart phone. However, some of us are taking it too far. They are taking selfies at the funerals—with wide smiles—or even at the top of very high buildings!

The next thing we know, taking selfies is now considered a narcissistic behavior as it indicates too much self-love. Is it true? Well, in fact, I’m going to show you more than that—and what to do about them. Keep reading.

A Narcissist: Behind the Name

Let’s start with the name. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)—or also known as “narcissism”—got its name from Greek mythological character, Narcissus. I bet you have heard of him before. Described as exaggerated self-love, pride, and selfishness (or egoism), the psychological condition really represents Narcissus who loved himself too much that he fell for his own reflection on a lake.

Narcissus thought he fell in love with someone else that showed up in the lake, but once he was aware he was wrong, he passed away over the sorrow for loving someone that never existed (his own reflection).

Narcissism was first introduced in 1967 by Otto Friedmann Kernberg, a psychoanalyst from Vienna, Austria under the jargon “narcissistic personality mythological structure.” Thus, in the following year, Heinz Kohut, another Austrian psychoanalyst proposed the term “narcissistic personality disorder” which remains the same until today.

What’s considered as a Narcissistic Behavior?

Being a personality disorder, NPD is characterized by narcissistic behavior, such as excessive self-admiration, egoism, or less empathy. People with the condition are very ambitious in achieving success, power, or perfect appearance most of the time. Sadly, in reaching their goals, they often use the others around them. Narcissistic behavior usually starts to happen when one grows into a young adult.

Based on the DSM-5 (a diagnosis method for NPD), an individual with the personality disorder is indicated by the following behaviors:

  • An exaggerated sense of pride.
  • Obsession of daydreams on the infinite power, beauty, success, perfect love, and brilliance.
  • Overrated confidence for being special and that one can only be accepted by the other special people or associations.
  • A necessity for excessive self-admiration.
  • A sense that one deserves special treatments and obedience from the others.
  • A tendency to take advantage of the others in reaching one’s goals.
  • Absence of empathy.
  • The envious feeling of certain people.
  • Arrogance or haughtiness.

Also, according to the diagnosis of DSM-5, a person with NPD can be more irritated when receiving criticism from others or when defeated by his/her biggest rivals. However, despite their excessive self-pride, a narcissist can also withdraw himself from society and show fake humbleness to seek more attention from the other people around. So, it is important to raise your awareness of the condition.

A Narcissist in the Making: The Causes

Speaking of the causes, I’m afraid I have to say that what makes the personality disorder to happen is not yet fully understood. The experts can only tell us that genetic and environment factors could play a big role in developing the condition.

According to a study by Arnold Cooper and Leonard Groopman—professional psychiatrists from New York, The US, the following factors may be responsible for the development of the rare personality disorder:

  • An overly sensitive temper as a birth trait.
  • Overrated praises for good deeds or—on the other hand—exaggerated criticism for bad deeds in childhood.
  • The imbalanced ratio between admiration and feedback from parents to their children.
  • Getting spoilt by parents and other family members.
  • Praises for physical appearance or abilities by the adults.
  • Getting verbally and emotionally abused as a child.
  • Lacking care or attention from parents.
  • Observing manipulative manners by parents or peers.

How to Deal with Them

Despite the fact that NPD is a rare psychological condition—being fewer than 150,000 cases per year in Indonesia, it can also be treated and dealt with. However, please note that the condition is incurable, so high expectation on narcissism to be healed is a mistake.

Treating a narcissist can be very challenging as the condition cause them to be more irritated and defensive. Thus, that makes it even harder to understand their underlying problems. Therefore, it is much recommended to get help from the experts, such as psychotherapy to help the patients show more empathy to others.

Meanwhile, if you happen to have a family member, a friend, or even a partner who has the tendency of being a narcissist, there is a little hint to find out how to deal with the condition—or whether you should get help or even just leave them alone.

A narcissist usually loves to play the emotional “hot potato” game. When you complain about anything that your partner is lacking in the relationship or demand them to do their responsibilities, they will automatically withdraw themselves and attack. Trust me; you’ll eventually get blamed again. It is actually a narcissist’s goal, to make people around them feel guilty even for his/her own mistakes.

Speaking of which, based on many studies, hiding an irritated heart and pride is apparently also one of the narcissistic hallmarks. This is a part of the “hot potato” game they play with you. Sadly, if this happens too often, you are officially in a toxic relationship. If you can talk about it with your partner well, it is good. However, if you need help, get one. As a reminder, a toxic relationship can turn into an abusive one in no time.

So, now that you know that taking selfies is not the only narcissistic behavior ever exists. It is time to be aware and take care.