Today’s focus is on a humanistic capacity to understand one another; the ability to place oneself in another’s shoe: empathy.

What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy? Watch this video to find out:

Empathy helps to develop genuine, deep relationships with one another. This week’s post touches on the examples where empathy is necessary in professional settings, and a trend that may affect our ability to empathise.


Empathy increases efficacy of healthcare and outcomes of any professions that are humanistic.

“More empathic care demonstrably improves patient satisfaction, leads to better patient outcomes, and lowers the risk for errors and malpractice suits. It also helps decrease the risks of physician burnout.”

Ever had the the experience of feeling vulnerable when you seek treatment, and a cold, aloof doctor greets you with a detached voice to check off a list of symptoms? That is the lack of empathy in action. It arguably makes patients feel worse off and trust cannot be built for better doctor-patient relationship. A common excuse is that most healthcare professionals are overstretched for time as they need to see a long lists of patients. This article suggests that Artificial Intelligence may be one solution to take some load off doctors. With machines aiding doctors in repetitive tasks such as diagnostics and scans, doctors are ideally freed to focus on being human, and to provide the necessary bedside care.


Empathy also helps one perform better in the office.

When someone has developed empathy and applies it in the way he or she approaches work, they make better employees and colleagues. In the business world, traits such as being engaged, trustworthy, and adaptable are highly desirable in a team setting.

“In degrees, the empathetic person sustains life outside of the box and is proficient at reading the intentions and emotions of others… Stress is motivating and minimally threatening. They are not performing and proving who they are, they are present and being who they are. They contagiously influence others through empathy.”

Comparing two employees who are on par in negotiation skills, the more empathetic person would probably negotiate more effectively because they can better engage the other party, understand what their interest is in the deal, and work towards agreeable win-win situations.


Ability to empathize is affected by our new reading habits

Interestingly, technology is changing the way we read and how we process materials and knowledge.

The reading circuit in our brains adapts to the dominant medium that we are reading from. Today, the digital medium is fast, multi-task oriented and contains large volume of information. In effect, we tend to skim, and “less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.”

As the author rightly concludes:

“We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society.”

Have you noticed the way you read and process? Perhaps you were even skimming through this article for main points!

Do you agree with the positive views of empathy? We urge you to take some time to read into the articles linked below, and share your thoughts with us after.

Here are some other related readings:

  1. Psychology Today: This article tells us that it is possible to be overly empathetic, and experience “empathy fatigue”.

“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.”

  1. Big Think: Yale professor Paul Bloom’s case against empathy distinguishes emotional empathy from cognitive empathy.

“Cognitive empathy, by contrast, is much more valuable. On occasion I have a student going through chemotherapy. Having gone through cancer earlier this year, I can listen to their challenges and understand both rationally and emotionally what they are experiencing. This does not mean I have to then go into the specifics of my disease. I can merely state, ‘Yes, I’ve been there, and here are some ways you can adjust.’”


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