Since I’m blogging about empathy this month, I decided to take an online empathy quiz. I ended up taking several and basically they all said the same thing. I have a high level of empathy. This didn’t surprise me to be honest. However, the test I found most interesting was “The Empathy Test” by Greater Good out of UC Berkeley. It not only told me my score, but it suggested ways I could become even more empathetic. Here’s what my score revealed. (If you’re curious about your results, take The Empathy Test.)
Practice Active Listening– When you actively listen to other people, you withhold judgment, and you try to put yourself in their shoes. “Walk a mile in my shoes” idea. Actively listening means having a true desire to understand the other person’s feelings and point of view. I think I do this, but reading further I realize I need to work on not letting my mind wander while listening (“I’ve got to get laundry done when I get home. Who was it I was to call today?”). Also, I shouldn’t take over the conversation with my tale of when the same thing happened to me. Empathy from another person should make us feel less alone. Saying “I know what you mean. I’ve been there, too” is usually enough.
Share in other people’s joy– Quite frankly I don’t know why this one came up. I do share in other people’s joy. It must have been a mistake. Maybe I should have marked “definitely” a few more times instead of “slightly”? Anyway, research does show it is just as important to share the joy in the good times as it is to empathize during the low ones.
Look for commonalities with others– I’ve gotten better with this one. Now I do try to find common ground with new people I meet. Maybe we are both educators or pull for the same sports teams. Maybe we’ve both suffered a recent loss or been struggling with the same issue. Maybe we have the same hobby or interests. Whatever the commonality may be, even if it’s just that we’re both human, I try to make a connection with the other person. After all, some of my closest friends made a poor first impression on me, and I’m sure I’ve done the same!
Read fiction– This is one I’d never heard before, but I love it. Finally, a reason to quit feeling guilty about not reading more nonfiction. According to research done in Canada, fiction readers better understand the social and emotional lives of others. Why? Fiction enables us to become someone else and see their perspective more easily. When we empathize with a character, we connect with something larger than ourselves. “This is an effect that goes beyond fiction. All art aspires to help us transcend ourselves.” (Keith Oatley)
Pay attention to faces– I rated myself fairly high on this, but when I took the Emotional Intelligence Quiz my score was average on interpreting facial expressions. Maybe I’m about the words and the faces together. Hmmm… You might want to try this quiz, too. It’s quick and fun.