Emotional Intelligence and empathy

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In an earlier post about Emotional Intelligence and marshmallows I referred to the findings of a Demos think-tank report which reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000.

Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verbal communication.

This is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Unless you are a sociopath everyone is capable of being empathic. There is even some research evidence that we possess a mirror neurone which plays a part in empathy and learning by imitation. It may also explain the phenomenon of postural echo where two people in rapport with each other may unconsciously synchronise their movements.

There is also other evidence that may be a genetic component to empathy. Researchers in the US have discovered that people who inherit a particular version of oxytocin receptor, the bonding hormone, score significantly higher on tests of empathy, and react less strongly to stressful stimuli.

They point out that people who score lower can still be caring and empathetic individuals, and people can learn to develop more empathy. For example, people who read well-written novels are able to put themselves in the shoes of the characters and that helps them to understand others’ perspectives.

And researchers at Strathclyde University found that children who are good at standing up to bullies, whether for themselves or others, are better at resolving problems without conflict, are more emotionally literate, and better at taking other people’s perspective. See “What doesn’t kill you , makes you”

Students today, however, are 40% less empathetic than they were 20 or 30 years ago, according to a report in The Times. “Generation Me” is more narcissistic, self-centred and competitive and less concerned with other people’s feelings. People also see them as more confident and individualistic but less kind.

The decline has been more marked since 2000, attributed to violent video games, social networking sites, and an obsession with TV celebrities. Inflated expectations, competitiveness and hiding weaknesses leaves no time for empathy. Researchers believe that technology has replaced human interaction and online having “friends” online means that you don’t have to respond to their problems.

As long ago as last June  it seemed that emotional intelligence was at last being taken seriously in government. In The Times in an article about cabinet resignations it said that Shaun Woodward and Tessa Jowell were given; “prominent communication roles to provide emotional intelligence and, according to aides, address Mr Brown’s communication weaknesses”.That those attempts failed is now history.

BTW If you want to check out how good you are reading NVC go to this BBC site http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/smiles/index.shtml

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9 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence and empathy

    And now Gender Intelligence | EI 4u said:
    May 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    […] Posted on May 17, 2011 by sganda| Leave a comment Following on from IQ (intelligence), EQ (emotional intelligence), CQ (cultural intelligence), and RQ (resilience quotient), GQ is based on John Gray’s […]

    Botox reduces empathy | EI 4u said:
    July 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    […] is a key component of emotional intelligence as is managing your emotions but it seems Botox would make you appear to be over-controlling your […]

    Botox reduces empathy | ulearn2bu said:
    September 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    […] is a key component of emotional intelligence as is managing your emotions but it seems Botox would make you appear to be over-controlling your […]

    Emotional Intelligence and empathy | ulearn2bu said:
    September 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    […] Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verb … Read More […]

    Can you recognise emotions? « EI 4u said:
    November 10, 2011 at 9:49 am

    […] is one of the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. Being able to recognise other people’s emotional state through non-verbal signs is an […]

    My most read posts in 2011 « EI 4u said:
    January 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    […] My 5th most read was: Emotional Intelligence and empathy […]

    Charisma pays off « EI 4u said:
    September 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    […] emotional intelligence and empathy will also be invaluable. Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

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    Empathy deficit « Biz Psycho said:
    July 15, 2015 at 8:14 am

    […] Rihanna has used social media to humiliate easy targets including sex slaves in Thailand. Given that she has been the victim of domestic abuse it also illustrates Rihanna’s lack of self-awareness as well as empathy and I suspect a general low level of emotional intelligence. […]

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