Dr. Kristin Moody

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Empathy is empowering

Empathy is in our nature

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When people make an empathetic connection, their facial muscles mimic one another, the same areas of their brain light up in tandem, and their breathing and physiology begins to sync. We open to new ideas, we seek paths forward, we look for solutions. Empathy is biological because it is a survival instinct: when we connect, it ensures our species can move forward. In the social sciences, the animals who are most empathetic are often the most revered leaders of the pack: that translates to humans, too. Empathetic people are more successful as leaders, more likely to achieve personal and professional goals, and more often report greater satisfaction in life.

Humans are social animals who are biologically wired for empathy. Empathetic connection with others reduces stress and increases beneficial physiologies (like oxytocin production and slowed heart rate). It is physically and emotionally unhealthy for us to disconnect from others and actually expends more energy to suppress our empathetic inclinations.

There are specific strategies to activate empathy--mindfulness, breathing, active listening, perspective taking, reframing--all of these and more better position us to really hear and accept the truth of others without judgement and understand the emotional state that comes with that truth. Empathy is not sympathy, compassion, or "being an empath"--all miscommunications that imply power and often erode active listening and trust. Unlike intuition and sympathy, empathy can be grown and practiced in linear, measurable ways.

Empathy is a choice

Empathy is accepting another person's truth, accepting that truth without judgement, accurately interpreting that person's emotional state, and coming to them with emotional parity. We make the decision to come to someone with empathy, and although we are hard-wired to connect, it takes active listening, suspension of judgement, and a willingness to trust and believe another's perspective. The choice to be empathetic is especially important when our experience is different, when we come from diverse perspectives, and when we want to build bridges.

Empathy can be grown

WHAT PEOPLE SAY

"Kristin is a superstar. She is able to quickly synthesize a lot of complex and scattered data and viewpoints into a workable action plan. Her ability to strategize and help our organization compose processes to help achieve our goal has been instrumental."

— Gerald Liu, Kids First Chicago