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Empathy is when we care about others—in both sadness and joy.
Empathy allows us to understand where another person is coming from, even if we don’t agree with them. It bridges the differences that can divide us and opens up mindful communication with those around us.
I think we can all agree that the world could benefit from more empathic leaders, parents, and people in every profession or walk of life.
Just as intelligence can be measured with an IQ, our level of empathy can be assessed with an Empathy Quotient (EQ).
Take the following quiz, adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide, to determine your EQ:
What is Your Empathy Quotient (EQ)?
- Are you sensitive to others, care about their well-being, and want to help?
- Do you listen with your heart, not just your head?
- Can you “hold space” for others to express their emotions?
- Can you listen without needing to fix someone’s problem immediately?
- Are you capable of the give and take necessary in intimate relationships?
- Are you intuitive and sensitive to other’s needs?
- Do you care about the greater good and well-being of Earth?
- If you answered “yes” to six or seven questions, you have an extremely high Empathy Quotient and might be suffering from overload.
- If you answered “yes” to four or five questions, you have a high Empathy Quotient.
- If you answered “yes” to two or three questions, you have a moderate Empathy Quotient.
- If you answered “yes” to zero or one question, you have a low Empathy Quotient and could benefit from developing more empathy.
How to Develop Empathy
If you have a lower EQ, don’t worry—empathy is a skill that you can develop through mindful awareness.
To do this, we must first quiet our inner chatter so we can bring our total presence to a conversation or interaction. Then take the time to listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Even if you don’t agree with them, try to understand what they are experiencing and feeling. Put yourself in their shoes, without judgement.
By practicing this whenever you interact with someone, you’ll slowly learn to develop more empathy for them, and others, and communicate more mindfully.
How to Cope with Empathy Overload
If your EQ is high, you might be prone to empathy overload.
To avoid this, it’s important to learn to center and protect yourself and your energy by practicing self-care. When you find yourself overwhelmed by everyone else’s feelings, start by taking a deep breath to center yourself. Make time to meditate and decompress. If you’re able, get out in nature to relax.
It’s also helpful to learn how to set kind but firm boundaries with others so you don’t overcommit yourself. And remember, it’s not your job to emotionally fix others—people deserve the dignity of navigating their own healing path.
No matter what your EQ, it’s always possible to develop more empathy or protect and center yourself if you are experiencing empathy overload. You can be part of the world without absorbing the stress of it.