Empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of someone else. It describes how well we identify with other people's pain, fears, desires, feelings and experiences. It is the one trait that most links humans together. It makes me have compassion for what has befallen you, it allows you to feel excited by my success and it compels both of us to be horrified when we hear or read about some tragedy that has befallen others.
To test your level of empathy, take the following quiz. Use this scale for all questions: A. Not at all. B. Somewhat. C. Fifty-fifty. D. A good deal. E. Very much.
1. I enjoy caring for other people.
2. I can usually appreciate the other person's viewpoint, even if I don't agree with it.
3. I am quick to spot when someone else is feeling awkward or
4. People tell me that I often go too far in driving home my point in a
5. I am easily affected by the emotions of others.
6. I find it easy to put myself in someone else's shoes.
7. I can tell if someone is masking their true emotions.
8. I am able to make decisions without being influenced by people's feelings who are close to me.
9. Friends usually confide in me about their troubles or problems.
10. It upsets me if I hear of an animal being mistreated or if I see an animal in pain.
11. I find myself having the same emotions as the characters in the movies I see or in the books I read.
12. Sometimes I don't understand why some people get offended by a remark or a comment that I make.
13. When I talk with people, we tend to talk about their feelings or experiences rather than mine.
14. I am a natural born counselor.
15. I get angry over injustice.
16. Other people have said that I was insensitive, even though I don't exactly understand why.
Scoring: To tally your score, for numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15, give yourself 0 points for each "A" response, 1 point for each "B" answer, 2 points for every "C" response, 3 points for each "D" response and 4 points for all "E" answers. For numbers 4, 8, 12 and 16, give yourself 4 points for each "A" answer, 3 points for every "B" answer, 2 points for every "C" response, 1 point for every "D" answer and 0 points for each "E" answer.
If you total 0-24 points, you have low levels of empathy. You tend toward being cool, even distant. You find it difficult to relate to the feelings of others or to identify with their pain or their
If you total 25-40 points, you have average levels of empathy. You can understand how other people are feeling, at least some of the time, even though you may not always get it right the first time.
If you total more than 40 points, you have higher levels of empathy. You are easily able to pick up the emotional cues of other people's emotions, and you are likely very bonded to an animal as well.
Empathy can increase with the desire to be more attuned to other people and other living things. It requires that you pay close attention to how things would feel if they happened to you. It allows you to temporarily step into someone else's shoes, so to speak, in order to fully understand why they feel as they do and why they act as they do.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website: www.heartrelationships.com.