Can Empathy Be Learned?
I just had a great chat with one of my best friends and she asked me my opinion about whether empathy is something you’re born with or whether it’s something you learn.
She had been thinking about it because she developed strong feelings toward a guy she has been casually seeing and she knew the depth of her feelings was not mutual. He liked her, and he enjoys sex with her, but she felt a deeper love bond that was really messing with her head — so she decided she needed to communicate that to him and take a step back.
He had no response for her.
In that silence, she took the time to recoup her thoughts and perspective on the situation. After a few days, she decided it was worth it to accommodate her feelings to his, in order to continue the friendship and casual sex (important note: the sex was out of this world good). He was on board for this arrangement, but moving forward, she couldn’t help but notice his lack of empathy toward her.
He would say things that were thoughtless toward her feelings, now that he knew, as she had put everything on the table.
“Doesn’t he think about how much that affects me after I told him how I feel?”
He was a good communicator (in her eyes) so she felt she could express these things to him, but he tended to deflect it back onto her as her responsibility to manage her own emotions.
And I mean, sure — we are responsible for our own emotions and our own reactions, however, that doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t act with empathy and grace, especially when they are aware of their impact.
This brings me back to her question about my opinion on empathy…I’m not the most confident person about my opinions on most matters, but when it comes to empathy — I feel overqualified to comment, because I was born an empath, and it has ruled my life for the better and for the worse.
Here’s my take on empathy:
I think we’re mostly born with it — and I think women are more likely to be empathetic.