Empathy is now more important during a pandemic than ever before. It should not interfere in any situation, either public or private. It should be present in every person, in everyone’s mind. Empathy should be present when the goal is to serve others, lead the country, or simply be at home to protect oneself as well as other people from infection. Bringing this psychological resource to life has never been more necessary than it is now.
However, we psychologists are well aware that this valuable human feeling is not always applied effectively. This is what we want to consider in this article, so keep reading!
It is not the same thing to feel another person’s pain or needs as to understand them and decide to do something about it. There is a big gap between feeling and action, and not everyone dares to build bridges over it to give their own energy and resources for the common good.
After all, that is the real purpose of empathy: to promote the survival and well-being of a group by connecting with another person’s feelings and behaving in that interest. It’s so simple, but sometimes so hard.
As Daniel Goleman has aptly pointed out, no matter how smart we are, without useful and active empathy no one can get very far.
Reasons why empathy is more important than ever during a pandemic
In times of crisis and difficulty, empathy can act as a catalyst. It is a way to bring harmony between people or groups, to identify the needs of others and to initiate active cooperation.
We want people to unite and not drift apart; we need hearts and minds that are willing to find solutions and not remain passive in criticizing what others are doing wrong.
Let’s take a closer look at why empathy is now more important during a pandemic than ever before.
Empathy helps to understand the needs of loved ones
One of the priorities of the current health crisis is to prevent the spread of infections. Some focus only on protecting themselves or their families, but in reality that is not enough, we need to take other people into account in this situation.
We need to create safety nets in our neighborhood: consider the single widow whose children live abroad, and consider the old couple who need groceries but are afraid to go out to the store.
Emotional empathy is helpful because it helps us feel another person’s reality. But it’s not enough. We need to go a step further and also work towards cognitive empathy. It takes us inch by inch, it helps us work and find solutions.
Front line employees also need our empathy
We all know quite well that healthcare workers have genuine empathy for their patients. That is an indisputable fact. Let us remember that empathy is more important than ever during a pandemic, and it affects all of us, not just healthcare workers and others who are currently putting their health at risk. In recent days, however, we have seen and heard of very outrageous acts against these very people.
We’ve read about cases where people have messed up threatening messages on the cars of nurses and doctors. Neighbors who leave messages at the home doors of nurses or grocery store workers demanding that they look for accommodation elsewhere during the pandemic. Of the people who threaten the supermarket cashier and few care about safety recommendations. That is not appropriate. Such behavior causes fear, sadness, and horror in those people who give their all for our others.
We need skilled leaders who feel compassionate empathy
Daniel Goleman has explained to us in his book Focus that there is a third type of empathy that is essential in the field of leadership, both in business and politics, and that is called compassionate empathy. In this case, an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral action is exercised that shows genuine concern for other people.
Selfishness, self-interest, and lying lie in the way, and a kind of compassion is activated that values a person above all else. This can be seen as deeds, real and effective compromises based on genuine intimacy with people.
Global growth opportunity
Empathy is more important than ever during a pandemic. We now have an excellent opportunity to introduce it. Several studies have proven the power of empathy, including a study by Dr Karen Tristen at the University of Manchester, UK.
According to that study, the active empathy we provide through social support creates stronger, happier emotional bonds and even increases life expectancy.
We have rarely needed this resource as much as we do now. Now is the ideal time to teach it to our children so that it will germinate and grow in neighboring communities, small villages, large cities and, of course, internationally. We need help and compassion greatly, even from a distance.
This empathy can be offered to us by a friend, a brother, a doctor, a neighbor, and even a distant scientist trying to find a vaccine that works for a pandemic thousands of miles away. Consider the concept of empathy and our own role, and seize this opportunity in these difficult times.