The Case for Compassion over Empathy

I was brought up to believe that feeling empathy was important and positive. You should seek to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes”.

But I found out later that research shows that the more empathy we feel in a negotiation, the less well we achieve our goals. Feeling empathy in this situation is a negative. At the same time, showing empathy in negotiation helps us achieve our goals.

What is going on? Are we supposed to fake it?

The answer may be that we are using the word “empathy” to mean different sorts of things. Indeed, empathy may be a different emotion than compassion. And when we say we are showing empathy, we may really mean that we are showing compassion.

What is the difference? Paul Bloom argues that feeling empathy actually lures us into making bad moral decisions.

It is a controversial point. But it also is worth considering.


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