Mankind is noted for having three differing types of empathy: cognitive, emotional and compassionate. But there are significant problems that take place when a person has too much or too little of any specific kind.
Best selling author, Dr. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, points out the downfalls in his informative post, Three Kinds of Empathy.
Cognitive Empathy- Sensing what’s going on with the people around us
Cognitive empathy enables us to perceive what’s going on with the next person. But just because you know what they are experiencing, and what motivates them, does not mean you’ll exhibit caring or be able to put yourself in their shoes. In fact, it may do just the opposite.
Strong cognitive empathy is the tool that torturers rely on to shake a prisoner down for information. They can detach completely from any sense of pathos toward their victim. People who have high levels of cognitive empathy make great politicians and sales people. When cognitive empathy is accompanied by emotional empathy, it’s a good thing.
Sociopaths that conduct emotional harm are intuitive about the needs and wants of their target. They’ll use cognitive clues to position themselves for acceptance, just like a chameleon changes colors. The problem is, they lack the emotional empathy that reigns-in their self-interest. Most people who recover from relationships with sociopaths think back on them as “reptilians” for good reason. There is a distinct cold-bloodiness in the way they operate.
Having cognitive empathy and no conscience enables swindlers to come up with asset grabs. Bernie Madoff pops to mind as a good example. We often think of con artists as people who try to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to an unsuspecting victim.
Emotional Empathy- The knee-jerk reaction to the perils that others experience
Emotional empathy enables us to embrace the feelings of others as if we were sharing their experience. When your heart pops into your mouth as someone falls off their chair, you are experiencing emotional empathy. People with appropriate levels of emotional empathy go through life thinking that everyone has it…. until they crash headfirst into the path of someone who does not. Their efforts to try to convey their experience to others is often met with disbelief, which makes the victim feel even more violated and isolated.
A person with high levels of emotional empathy could be hamstrung from benefiting the person with a problem because they may get too emotional to react in a positive way. That’s where compassionate empathy kicks in.
Compassionate Empathy- How we make a difference in the lives of others
Through compassionate empathy, we can use our emotional empathy to produce a meaningful result. A person with a well balanced level of compassionate empathy would come to the aid of the individual who fell, calling 911 if needed, or problem solving to determine what the situation warrants. People with compassionate empathy will appear outwardly cool in a pinch, even while feeling significant concern for the person who’s in danger. While they might fall apart after the crisis ends, they remain sufficiently detached to provide help when it’s needed.
The risk of compassionate empathy in dating
Having compassionate empathy puts people at risk for becoming victims, particularly in internet dating scams. The actor grooms their target with an overabundance of loving gestures to fuel their sense of belonging and build trust. The offender will jiggle the hook with a small bait-like request for a token “favor.” They may even provide reciprocal favors in return, grooming the victim further.
Ultimately, when they believe the victim is sufficiently snagged, they’ll spring a mega-request, and it’s usually about money, sex, or immigration related. It’s often couched in language that makes the request seem like an emergency. Targets that fail to produce the desired result get hit with a scathing attack aimed at crushing their self esteem. They are often too embarrassed and devastated to immediately seek help. They are stunned by the cessation of love they had counted on. Before they regain their equilibrium, the predator is long gone. and probably bad mouthing them to their next victim.
How empathy factors in our relationships
Emotional empathy is absolutely necessary in sustaining a loving relationship. Without it, a person is only capable of engaging with others on a “What’s in it for me?” basis. While they may pretend to be caring, because they know it’s socially acceptable to do so, their self-centered way of looking at the universe will ultimately surface. There will be no “agreeing to disagree” in order to make peace, a negotiation skill that is vital in order to sustain a relationship when acrimony occurs, as it does in any human interaction.
A mate with no emotional empathy cannot and will not put themselves in your shoes. They simply lack the ability to do so. And without this ability, they cannot develop a conscience. The only limits to their behavior stem from fear of being “outed,” and fear of loss or consequences.
No amount of bargaining, acquiescing, pleading, explaining, or cajoling will change their mindset. It is the way they are wired. Once a person advances past the life stage in which their moral code of conduct forms, they are who they are, and YOU will not change them.
How do you know if you’re dating a sociopath?
Someone who lies to you, in order to seduce you, has little or no emotional empathy. They do not put themselves in your shoes. They see you as a prize, an entitlement, a piece of property, but not as the living, breathing, caring human being that you are. If they were dishonest in their on-line dating description, or other information they initially fed you, they have no conscience. They are self indulgent.
The derisive manipulation of a person without emotional empathy will undermine your well-being. Even if the relationship remains intact, the victim’s self esteem will be shredded. So if you are experiencing loss of worth or other abuse, get help, today!
If you are with someone who displays a lack of emotional empathy toward others, it’s a sign of their real, underlying nature.
But, isn’t there a cure? Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? I felt so loved!
Sociopaths are people who lack emotional empathy. That is how their brain works. They are not sick. They are disordered. They know the difference between right and wrong. They just don’t care. They will not get better, but the longer you endure their behavior, the worse your situation will become.
They played with your brain chemistry to hook you. Find someone who loves you for you, not for your assets or other services you provide for them. Get out before giving birth to their child or financial complications get in the way.
A lucky example of collective compassionate empathy!
All of you with emotional empathy will be happy to know that the group of onlookers in the title photo rushed to the aid of the little boy who dangled from his fathers hands. He plunged 25 feet into their waiting arms, and skied the rest of the day. Thanks to Matt Roeser who had his camera at the ready to snap this awesome testament to compassionate empathy at Hidden Valley in Wisconsin.