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Are friendships and relationships stronger when empathy is shared? An interesting study published in the Journal of Personality found that teenage boys who show empathy attract 1.8 more girlfriends than those who don’t. Empathy is the ability to comprehend, appreciate, and understand others’ emotions. Having friendships and good relationships are linked to positive physical and emotional health along with creating opportunity for growth and learning. People who have emotional intelligence (EQ) understand what empathy is and have an easier time giving it to those they are close to. So does empathy only apply to teenagers and relationships? Absolutely not, empathy can build trust, connection, and respect in all relationships. What prevents people from being empathetic?
Most people know that narcissists lack empathy and are typically self-absorbed. Empathy requires commitment, connection, and a certain level of vulnerability. In some cases, people have limited exposure and experience with empathy. Others perceive empathy as a weakness and fear being hurt or rejected by being vulnerable. Some even believe that empathy will expose them to deceit, betrayal, and manipulation. Personal and intimate relationships expose us all to risk and the possibility of rejection and hurt. However, as we expand our connections, share empathy, and express our feelings, we deepen the relationship and potentially increase the magnitude of happiness.
Being empathetic requires a person to have the capacity to comprehend other’s feelings and truly care about their emotional well-being. Being sensitive to others’ emotional pain and intentionally listening, genuinely caring, and having a desire to support, help, or comfort is all part of empathy. Are we born with empathy? Typically this is learned through observations and modeling of those people we trust, love, and respect. We can acquire a greater level of empathy with effort and intention. Building empathy can be achieved by identifying others’ feelings, validating emotions, and openly expressing compassion for others’ struggles. When we’re empathetic our focus is off ourselves and on others’ feelings which can take some effort. The bottom line is that empathy strengthens relationships, deepens connections, and allows for greater emotional intimacy. Decide today to deepen your connections through empathy.