Not everyone who wants empathy is expecting a favor from you. Sometimes, just being heard and acknowledged as a person is more meaningful than you realize.
Empathy is an ability to understand the feelings of another person; it is a virtue that encourages helping behaviors.
So why are people afraid of it?
Some people worry that someone is going to ask them to do something for them – like support a charity or give away a special favor.
Researchers designed an experiment with an “Empathy Selection Task” to test this theory and see if it would cause people to avoid it altogether.
Two decks of cards with photos on them were used for the experiment. In one case, people were asked to describe the physical characteristics of the faces in the photo. On the second deck, they were told to try to feel empathy for the person in the photo and try to think about the other person’s thoughts or perspectives.
When given the option – participants chose the deck that did not require empathy 65% of the time!
Given a choice in advance, people avoided empathy altogether concerned that it would be too much effort.
They gave up before they even tried out of fear or self-consciousness.
Instead of thinking that someone is going to try to get something from you against your will, or that you will struggle with the request, what if you believed that you could just hear someone else’s perspective without judgment?
In fact, if you tried to be more empathetic and were encouraged to try without expectation, would you be more motivated?
Not everyone wanting to be seen or heard is expecting you to fix the situation; in fact, in most circumstances such a possibility is far out of your control.
However, just listening to someone express their feelings when they are uncertain or tense only requires you to care about another person as a human being.
No fixing. No judgment. No suspicion. Just dignity and the courtesy of being heard allows a bond of trust to develop. Focusing on the other person ~ face-to-face or virtually ~ takes the attention off your own self-consciousness and becomes a gentle act of kindness. It is not really as hard as you thought, is it?