Empathy Isn’t The Magic Fix We Think It Is

Empathy is on the decline. This is pretty startling information because we talk about empathy a whole lot in this work. Research suggests that people are getting less empathic – or empathetic, if you prefer. And, in fact, people are getting more selectively empathic, meaning that we might care about, and can empathize with, people of our own persuasion, but we really don’t or can’t care as much about those with whom we can’t relate. In fact, this “selective” empathy is actually deepening our divisions. Those of us in the public engagement and facilitation biz often like to think that if we can just help people see things through each other’s eyes, we’ll be able to bridge the political divides and conflicts; turns out, not so much. Selling benevolence isn’t going to cut it. Ultimately, people will have to come to an understanding that altruism isn’t about taking care of others, it’s actually in our own best interests.