Can You Teach People To Have Empathy?
This is a fairly frequent question in my office. It’s a complex question. Sometimes the question reflects a cycle in the relationship (one person is overwhelmed by a perception that the emotional demands of the other are unattainable “Is this something else I’m doing wrong?”). Often one partner fears that an empathic response means they are acquiescing or agreeing (“I understand how you see my father is overreacting”). Sometimes the person seeking empathy is trying to elicit understanding around their criticism or anger (“You don’t have to agree you’re selfish; I just want you to acknowledge that I could feel that way.”) Still, empathy is the lubricant of an emotionally secure relationship.
There are reasons why some people are better at empathy than others, but this article (link in turquoise above) gives some hope that there are small daily things people can do to increase their Empathy IQ.