When a perfectly contented newborn baby hears another baby crying, it’s common for her to begin wailing as well. Now, most of us would just say, “Well, sure, I’d cry too if my ears were hurting and the noise nearby was TOO LOUD.” But studies indicate more is going on than “what just meets the ear” and that we can all learn something about EMPATHY that infants, it appears, learn very young.
When two babies begin crying in the same room, it’s not just the loud noise that causes the second baby to wail along with the first. Researchers have found it’s the sound of a fellow human in distress that triggers the baby’s crying. One New York University psychologist believes that this “reflexive” crying, as he calls it, may be a precursor to human empathy – the ability to observe the anguish or joy of another person and take it on as your own.
Empathy serves many important functions. It allows us to understand another’s feelings, motivating a desire to help, and it gives us a sense of connection, e.g.“I’m like you and you’re like me.” Without empathy, people are focused on only their own feelings, needs, comfort and well-being. This shows up in rude and inconsiderate behavior, stinginess and a lack of desire to help others. In short, we wouldn’t be able to live happily without it.
To increase your empathy you need to develop good listening skills, place your focus and attention on others and be open to thoughts and feelings that may be different from your own. It isn’t even necessary that you agree with someone to feel empathy for them. Regardless of beliefs, political affiliation, education, or economic status, people all experience joy, sorrow, pain, passion, loss, insecurity, hope and regret. We can always find something relatable in our interactions with others.
Crying babies aren’t burdened by prejudices or a lifetime of experience. When they hear their fellow baby cry, they simply cry with them. Here’s some good news to keep in mind: Empathy isn’t always sad. After all, there isn’t anything cuter than two babies cracking each other up. It works both ways!
We would like to hear from our readers if you have any experiences with people who have empathy – or have a lack of empathy. How do you create supportive connection with other people?
Whether you are interacting with an executive team or a group of friends at your favorite coffee shop, increasing your empathy will go a long way in connecting with other people and strengthening your relationships.
Live, Work and Relate Well!