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Employers are looking for new hires with something extra: Empathy

Stashed in: Young Americans, Empathy, Awesome, Jobs, Body Language, Empathy, The Nature of the Beast

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More and more, CEOs are concluding that to compete and win, they first need to understand the customer’s inner experience. Their employees need empathy. And that trait is becoming ever more valuable, in part because the supply of candidates who possess it seems to be shrinking—at least in the U.S. Empathy among American college students has declined significantly over the past 30 years, say researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Rochester Medical Center (see chart above).

I'm trying to understand the reason for the decline of empathy in Young Americans.

Is it something they don't even know they should try to learn?

Other research gives little reason to believe it will increase as they grow older.

And that brings us to a deeper issue. We have evolved exquisitely to connect in person. Consider what happens when you’re near someone and his or her face displays an emotion fleetingly, through a so-called micro-expression. Your own face mimics that expression within milliseconds, and the other person, in turn, detects your response. You have empathized without either one of you being aware of it—but it doesn’t happen if you’re alone in your cube.

...or if the majority of your social interactions are through a 5" LCD display.

It's true, smartphones have no body language, not even with video conferencing, really.

It doesn't surprise me that empathy is declining. I notice a big difference between North America and my wife's home country Cuba. Cubans have vastly less access to technology, they are far more sociable and gregarious, and they have an automatic facility with empathy that is also at ease. The average Cuban just seems so much more comfortable in their own skins than the average North American. The degree of difference is orders of magnitude. It's always a pleasant shock for me when we visit family there. One of my wife's worries is that when technology proliferates in Cuba that social facility and empathy will disappear.  

Sadly, our culture doesn't seem to place a lot of value in empathy.  There's a real mentality of winning at all costs - a mentality of hyper-competitiveness.  There are winners and there are losers.  There are survivors and thrivers and those who aren't.  There are fighters and wimps. 

More and more we seem to be encouraged to "take" what it ours and at the least keep score and make sure you're not taken advantage of.  Kindness matters but is valued less and less....same with giving....and few understand empathy.

On one hand this has catapulted us to incredible success at many levels.  In other ways it has made us very "me-oriented" as a society.  This leaves less and less room for caring about and relating to others and their needs.  No wonder there's a scarcity of Empathy......and of giving.  

In the end, I think we end up with alot of lonely disconnected people.  Empathy builds relationships. Empathy builds community.  Empathy builds understanding.  Empathy leads to greater peace.  And in the end, yes, empathy is better business too!

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