Being empathetic is about understanding how another person is feeling, even if they’re in a situation that you haven’t experienced yourself. While this is mostly a positive trait, it can lead to empathetic people feeling overwhelmed by the feelings and problems of their friends and family.
Scroll down to take our quick personality quiz below to find out how empathetic you are and find out more about the science of empathy.
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Why empathy means you can ‘catch a yawn’
If you see someone else yawning, it can be quite hard to stop yourself yawning too. Scientists believe that copycat yawning stems from our natural empathy and ability to sense the feelings of others.
On the other hand, a lack of yawning can be a sign of schizophrenia or autism.
Are we born with empathy?
A study into empathy at Cambridge University – the largest of its kind ever conducted – found that most of us are not born with empathy. It’s very much down to how we’re raised. Only 10% of our empathy and compassion can be put down to our genes.
The study showed that women are more empathetic men, but this wasn’t due to any genetic differences.
Why is empathy important?
Empathy allows us to relate to and understand the feelings of others – which is a great social skill. It allows us to build strong connections with those around us and look after those in need.
Empathy is a pro-social skill – a skill which benefits other people. Psychologists have theorised that looking after others has an evolutionary benefit – if we help others, it’s more likely that they will come to our aid when we need it, ensuring our survival.
If you’re an empathetic person, you might find that you’re drawn to certain career paths and that you excel in caring roles. Empaths are well-suited to professions such as psychiatry, nursing, coaching or volunteering.
Take our empathy personality test
Photo by Eye for Ebony and Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.