Are We Still Empathic if We Don't Take Action? - Deepstash
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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Empathy is a gateway to action. What one does next is the result of a separate decision.
  • Actions informed by empathy tend to be prosocial, which helps us cooperate and live productively with others.
  • Sometimes, fixing situations or telling others what to do is not the most empathic way to respond.


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Empathy And Action

Empathy And Action

There is much going on in the world today that touches us deeply and evokes empathy. But the events we see maybe thousands of miles away, and while we feel moved emotionally, we may not know what to do or how to respond.

What does that lack of action or not knowing what to do means? Is it that we are not empathic enough?

The answer for some maybe yes, but for most of us the answer is no; we are experiencing empathy. However, taking action is separate from empathy. We may have an abundance of empathy but what follows those feelings is complicated.


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The Effect Of Empathy

The Effect Of Empathy

Numerous controlled experiments have demonstrated that empathy leads people to take actions on behalf of others and to do so without personal gain or even at a cost.

Empathy also helps us to cooperate with others. We use empathy as a tool to read other people, which helps us to exchange information in helpful ways, and as a result, productively live in social groups. While there are other reasons that people might do prosocial things (maybe guilt or desire for recognition) empathy has consistently correlated with positive actions.


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Simply Being Empathetic Is Not Action

Simply Being Empathetic Is Not Action

We often think of empathy as the evidence of doing good, and yes, the two are related. But they are not the same. Empathy is not an outcome; rather it is an emotive experience that can inform what we do next. The action we might take as a result of empathy is often to be helpful, caring, cooperative, and compassionate, but that is the result of a separate decision.


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Empathy Without Action

There may be times that we have an empathic experience and take action, and there may be times that we do not do anything. Or, we may choose to respond in a way that may not seem to others to look particularly active.

The reason that empathy is so important, even if there is no observable action taken, is because we are heard and our feelings are validated. When we feel heard and understood, we feel connected to others in ways that promote positive social interactions


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When To Act

When To Act

When sharing emotions and experiences, we may want to fix situations or tell others what to do, but that is not the most empathic way to respond.

Empathy helps you to communicate to others that they are being heard and understood. Using the key empathy skills of setting boundaries and engaging in emotion regulation, we can pause to recognize our own emotions and not get overwhelmed by those emotions. This pause allows us to act in ways that are beneficial to the other; not act in ways that we imagine would fit or do what we would want.


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