A Whole New Mind – Empathy

posted February 19th, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I promised to share some of the collection of tools, exercises and further reading materials which Dan Pink provided in his book A Whole New Mind to send us on our way to developing each of the six essential aptitudes — what he calls the six senses on which professional and personal satisfaction increasingly will depend. One of the six senses is Empathy.


Pink offers the following definition of Empathy: “Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling. It is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts. It is something we do pretty much spontaneously, an act of instinct rather than the product of deliberation. But Empathy isn’t sympathy — that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person. Empathy is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate reality — climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.”

He  outlined a number of tools, exercises and reading materials which one might pursue to develop this sense. The following selection resonated with me.


Test Yourself


Pink says: “Psychologists have developed an array of tests to measure individual empathy and related qualities. Many of these tests are available on the Web — and they’re an excellent introduction to the subject as well as a fun way to learn more about yourself. But caveat test-taker.”  He says: “the Web is full of self-assessments, many of which have all of the scientific validity of phrenology.” He suggests we begin our Empathy testing regimen with the following tests.

Empathy Quotient. “Measure your EQ with Simon Baron-Cohen’s sixty-question instrument, which will determine whether you have a “female brain”.  If you want to check your “male brain” bona fides, also take the test that measures your systematizing quotient, or SQ.”

Spot the Fake Smile. “Take the BBC’s ten-minute, twenty-question test based on Paul Ekman’s research, to see how good you are at detecting the difference between a fake smile and a real one.”

Mind in the Eyes Test. “Another test from Simon Baron-Cohen, this one measures your ability to identify a facial expression from only the person’s eyes.” 

Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. “This is probably the most widely respected emotional intelligence test available today. But unlike the others mentioned, to take this one, you have to pay. It’s not the place to start your inquiry, but it is a great option for those who want to dig deeper.”




Pink says: “Another great way to sharpen your empathic powers is to volunteer somewhere in your community that serves people whose experiences are far different from your own. If you volunteer in a homeless shelter, for instance, it would be hard not to imagine yourself in the situation of someone there.” He suggests: “Another approach is to combine volunteer work with a vacation. Immersing yourself into someone else’s world and working beside that person is a great way to connect with others and gain insight into their lives.”



Be Sociable, Share!

Write a comment

You need to login to post comments!