THE NEED FOR EMPATHY
Posted by Tim Bryce on November 12, 2014
BRYCE ON LIFE
– Does the excessive use of technology affect our compassion for others?
When I was very young I was involved in a bicycle accident whereby I was run over by a friend’s bike, leaving a painful welt across my stomach. I recovered quickly, but ever since then whenever I see someone injured, I am overcome with a strange sense of pain. For example, if I happen to watch a video on the Internet showing some bone-heads involved in accidents, such as with skate boards, bicycles, or jumping off buildings, I can feel their pain. Consequently, I avoid watching such things. I call it extreme empathy.
Empathy itself is concerned with understanding and sharing the feelings of others. Whenever someone is experiencing joy and elation, it can be quite contagious and others may experience a similar euphoric feeling. Conversely, if someone is suffering from an injury or some misfortune, we likewise may experience it. It ultimately depends on the type of relationship we have with the individual in question, particularly family and friends. However, I am seeing a decline in empathy in both the public and in the workplace. For example, we have all seen videos of people falling on railroad tracks or on the street with pedestrians calmly passing by watching the scene, but taking no action. Hopefully, someone will jump to the victim’s relief and help him/her up, but I’m surprised by the blank looks on the faces of bystanders. Maybe they were in shock and had no idea what to do, such as call for help at the very least. More likely, they show no empathy for the person.
In the workplace, employees exhibit little empathy towards their co-workers. If someone experiences a tragedy, be it large or small, few people lift a hand to offer support. I consider this strange and attribute it to the excessive use of technology. In many offices today, people plug into their computers and phones and go about their business. This means people tend to work more independently and, as such, there is little camaraderie between workers, nor empathy. The partitions used in cubicles are nice for privacy, but I tend to believe companies are grooming their workers to work separately as opposed to behaving like a team.
In Japanese offices, partitions are rare, so is the use of personal technology. Basically, you are given a desk and chair, with a computer and telephone, which is organized into a classroom format. Since there are many people in the room, you must respect the privacy of others and do not create any unnecessary noise. However, you come to know your fellow workers and often go to lunch with them or possibly have a drink afterwards on a Friday night. Not surprising, there is a great deal of empathy in the Japanese workplace. Now ask yourself, how many people in your office go out to lunch together? If it is rare, so is the compassion for others.
Is it possible technology is making people too jaded? I tend to believe so. Perhaps it is causing us to lose our sense of humanity; that we are no longer sensitive to the needs and problems of others. It is unimaginable today to ask workers to unplug from their personal devices, remove the partitions, and look over to their fellow workers and say, “Hi, how are you today?”
Maybe everyone should be run over by a bicycle.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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