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The Empathy Gap: Why People Fail to Understand Different Perspectives - Effectiviology

Handling empathy gaps

  • Visualize different mental states and perspectives. Visualize how you will feel and think when you are in a different mental state. This technique is also helpful to understand someone else's feelings and behavior.
  • Explain the different perspectives. When you try to reduce someone else's empathy gap, it can be helpful to explain different perspectives to the one that someone is experiencing at that moment.
  • Consider past actions. We often forget how we behaved in the past, despite being a strong indicator of how we're most likely to think, feel, or act. If you know from past action that you won't be able to resist the pasty in the breakroom at work, ensure to eat something healthy before you get there.

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The curse of knowledge

... is a cognitive bias that causes people to fail to account for the fact that others don’t know the same things that they do. 

Why we experience the curse of knowledge

Since we spend the majority of the time experiencing things from our own perspective, we struggle to imagine the perspective of others.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that makes it difficult for people to account for the fact that other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and views are different from their own.

Minimize the curse of knowledge

You need to be conscious of the fact that people have different levels of knowledge than you.

  • Ask for feedback from the people you are communicating with, in order to confirm that they understand what you are saying.
  • Make sure that you explain the technical terms and concepts that you use as you are using it.
A definition of empathy
A definition of empathy

The German word for empathy is "Einfühlung" and was coined in the late 1800s. It means "feeling into."

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Misplaced empathy

In recent years, researchers have found that misplaced empathy can lead to exhaustion and apathy, and prevent you from helping the people who need you.

Worse, people's empathetic tendencies can be used to manipulate them into aggression and cruelty.

The identifiable victim effect

Psychologists point out that defining empathy as the act of stepping into someone's mind to experience their feeling can lead to some tricky moral dilemmas.

  • We are moved to open our hearts (or wallet) when presented with a case such as a charity campaign where a single story of a named, suffering child is showcased to the exclusion of other suffering children. Psychologists call it the "identifiable victim effect."
  • This can also help explain why many people become numb to the deaths of strangers, but be up in arms about the minor loss of personal freedoms they more directly experience.
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Listen To Your Body

As reaction to panic or stress the body pumps adrenaline, making you breath faster and certain parts of the body feel tight, that makes us prone to often incorrect snap judgments. When having that kind of response, close your eyes, take a few breaths, and take some time to consider your next action.

That buys you time to physically calm down enough to make a more considered choice. 

Other Tips For Better Choices
  1. Be skeptic, meditate, learn from previous mistakes, know what the data and it’s context means, and trust your informed judgment.
  2. Focus on the quality of information you’re getting, not the quantity.
  3. Set a time limit for yourself, and ensure you’re not using your decision-making angst as a procrastination device.
  4. If you see that you prefer familiar and easier choices, ensure they aren’t being reframed to support something you wish was true.
  5. Crisp, clear decisions may seem like the best kind of decisions, but they may cost you time and extra effort when often the details may not even matter.
  6. Forcing yourself to choose may lead to you making high-risk decisions and ignoring alternatives.
  7. Imagine the effort you’re considering was a fantastic success, and then that it was an unequivocal disaster. Then, analyze the reasons for both to find blind spots, dampen excessive optimism, and bridge the gap between short-term and long-term thinking.