Anxiety robs us of our empathy

Listening - the heart of empathy

Listening – the heart of empathy

I spend a lot of time working in the criminal justice area with staff around general offending or family violence. The literature from the motivational interviewing field teaches us that empathy is one of the global measures, that along with partnership, indicates a strong working alliance. I have been thinking about what makes it so difficult to create empathic connection in these fields of practice. Is it that we find difficulty associating with the behaviours of the person sitting in front of us? Is it that we carry a degree of anxiety when sitting with people who we know are capable of posing risk to others, including ourselves?

I follow the work of the Greater Good Science Centre at Berkeley University and was interested in an article they recently published on the link between anxiety and reduced empathy. In essence they found that we become more egocentric after induced to feel uncertain (surprise and anxiety are both associated with uncertainty). They go on to say that when we feel uncertain we tend to fall back on what we know to be true, which as all of us know is riddled with our own biases, perspectives and feelings.

Read the article from the Greater Good Science Centre here

 

Published on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015, under Motivational Interviewing, Offender work, Practice tips and techniques

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