Empathy Tested… Does it matter if it fails or succeeds?
Listed under the subjects which people should not mention to me (or should run like hell if I mention them) unless they want me to launch into a headache-inducing discussion-debate-rant, wherein I will analyse something to death, go off on several tangents at once, and gesticulate in a manner which makes me appear as though I’m using an invisible giant computer touchscreen which has many dots on it that I am endeavouring to connect is – Empathy.
That list is known as – Don’t get me started… – because once I start, I can’t stop until I drop off the end of the world or actually figure out the problem which I think exists. Whether it really exists or not doesn’t matter. It’s real to me, and it affects me like a math formula affects a beautiful mind. Except my mind isn’t beautiful, unless you consider a mess to be something of beauty. Like Tracy Emin’s bed.
If you do accidentally get me started or if I get myself started and you can’t run away, just yell ’Stop!’ and I will do so. Don’t worry about appearing rude, I’d rather that you were blunt and honest than a martyr to politeness.
If you think that politely listening to me while you’re thinking about how boring I am (and therefore you’re not listening to me at all but to yourself and your inner conversation), wishing I would shut up, blaming me for torturing you with my talk when you could be discussing a subject which gets your talking juices flowing rather than congealing them, is you being empathic, then our interpretation of the meaning and usage of empathy is very different.
If your reason for being polite has to do with making others think well of you – I’m more likely to think well of you if you’re upfront than if I find out later (which I will) that you were putting up with my blah, blah, blah, hated every minute of it, and gossiped about what a bore I am behind my back.
If your reason for pretending to listen to me is due to not wanting to hurt my feelings – How do you think my feelings will feel when I realise that you were faking interest? How will I feel when it dawns on me that I bored you to death?
If you really can’t bring yourself to own up to how you feel and what you’re thinking in this scenario, don’t worry, chances are I’ll suss it out before I’ve accidentally killed you with my bore fest. I’ll stop myself… and save your life (if it was ever at my mercy in the first place).
What is empathy?
Or, more to the point, what do you think empathy is?
This interpretation, from an insightful and interesting article on the subject – How to Test your Empathy – sums up my view, interpretation and usage of it:
“Empathy means being able to step into someone else’s shoes and then step out of them again. What happens when we inhabit their shoes is supposed to give us an understanding of their experience, their feelings and their point of view.” – Guy Winch, Ph.D.
I came across that article while searching for ‘Empathy Test’. I was searching for that because I wondered if there was a test for such a thing, or more precisely, I knew that there would probably lots of tests associated with a trendy subject, a subject which seems to go hand-in-hand with another trending topic – Narcissists. So much so that there seems to be an Empath versus Narcissist contest going on, with team Empath and team Narcissist competing over who is on which team, amongst other conflicting issues.
I’ve known a couple of narcissists who think they have superpowers of empathy. Since narcissists love to point out the flaws of others to elevate themselves to a status of perfection, accusing others of lacking empathy and therefore endowing themselves with high levels of the stuff is par for the narcissist course. Narcissists also love to accuse others of being narcissists, often using the other person’s lack of empathy (towards the narcissist) as proof. What a narcissist usually means by lack of empathy is a lack of sympathy – as in you didn’t feel sorry for them when they were using the victim ploy to get something from you. For a narcissist empathy = sympathy. Sympathy = feeling sorry for someone. Narcissists are very sympathetic, they love to feel sorry for others, in a condescending superiority complex manner. They pity you for being you… while at the same time envying you for being you which makes them feel inferior so they up the doses of pity they have for you, which is really passive-aggressive resentment.
Anyway… since I was sort of taught how to be empathic by a narcissist (which might make my empathy credentials very dubious), and since I think that I’m quite adept at this empathy thing, once I stopped doing it the way I had been taught to do it which was actually codependent enabling disguised as sympathetic empathy… I thought I’d take an empathy test to find out how I actually measure up (at least according to the test, which may be accurate or faulty depending on who created it and why it was created and a million other factors which when factored in make everything questionable).
The following test questions were taken from a website – Psychology Tools – which offers free access to free tests of a psychological nature. There is a forum attached to this site, which you are encouraged to peruse and participate in once you’ve received your test results. There is also more information and resources connected to each section which they cover with their tests.
The only problem which I had with this test was the answer format – Strongly Agree, Slightly Agree, Slightly Disagree, Strongly Disagree. I would have preferred an extra option of Neither Agree nor Disagree (as in I haven’t made up my mind yet about this, or my mind decides on agreement or disagreement based on the situation and the situation’s context, since that is missing I neither agree nor disagree). But it is just a quick test to get a guesstimated estimate from which to start a conversation with yourself, and maybe others on the site’s forum. Or write a post about it on your blog.
I scored 65/80 the first time I took it, and scored 56/80 the second time I took it (I couldn’t recall my previous answers, so I took it again to share my answers here). I seem to be becoming less empathic rather rapidly, or rather, more likely, our empathy levels fluctuate at any given time.
As stated in Guy Winch’s article – “Experiencing empathy requires a Jedi mind trick of sorts albeit one we do to our own minds. It involves directing our awareness to a place our mind does not go of its own accord – to what it feels like to be another person-lingering there for a moment so we register the emotional and cognitive landscape, and then returning to our own reality.”
So I guess my Jedi powers faded. Shit like that happens. The force is rather fickle about whether it is with you or not… perhaps because you’re irresponsible about how you use it and it doesn’t like that.
I do think my results would have been different had I been allowed to use the Neither Agree nor Disagree option. I dithered on some of the answers and just picked a side for the sake of getting a result, and some of the questions puzzled me.
Below are the test questions from the – Empathy Quotient test – and my answers (second time around), plus some ad lib.
1. I can easily tell if someone else wants to enter a conversation.
Strongly Agree. Their mouth is open, words are being emitted and they’re looking at me, talking to me.
2. I prefer animals to humans.
Slightly Agree. This is tricky, it depends on the animal and on the human. This is one of the questions I would have answered with Neither Agree no Disagree.
3. I try to keep up with the current trends and fashions.
Slightly Agree. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was asking whether I do it out of interest or because I want to I want to keep up with the Jones’.
4. I find it difficult to explain to others things that I understand easily, when they don’t understand it the first time.
Slightly Agree. Again, not sure how to interpret this question. I tend to assume that other people are intelligent and able to understand, however I am aware that my explanations are often hard to understand because I am not being clear. This is one of those… am I talking gibberish situations.
5. I dream most nights.
Strongly Agree. How is this relevant to empathy? I’m very curious about that and will have to explore it. Last night I had this really bizarre dream… shhh, all dreams are bizarre and people find it annoying when you share your dreams!
6. I really enjoy caring for other people.
Slightly Agree. Define ‘caring for other people’, then I can answer more accurately. Don’t get sick around me… just saying… as I may kill you with my cure.
7. I try to solve my own problems rather than discussing them with others.
Strongly Agree. This is just a starting point. I only discuss with others those problems which I can’t solve myself. Logical, no?
8. I find it hard to know what to do in a social situation.
Slightly Agree? This is far too vague. Am I at a supermarket? A party? Do I know the people there? Is this a family affair? Am I a stranger? A hostage or a hostage taker? I would have chosen to answer this with Neither Agree no Disagree.
9. I am at my best first thing in the morning.
Strongly Disagree. I rotate through the 7 Dwarfs of mood – Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful, Doc, Happy – in the morning. I’m never Snow White, unless it’s after she took a bite of the poisoned apple, then I’m like her when I’m sleeping. Prince Charming better not try to wake me with a kiss or he’ll get one in the kisser (which I’ll regret as I didn’t mean to hurt him).
10. People often tell me that I went too far in driving my point home in a discussion.
Strongly Disagree. I usually stop before I get far enough for people to say that sort of thing… or they may be too afraid of me to say it?
11. It doesn’t bother me too much if I am late meeting a friend.
Strongly Disagree. Want to see what I’m like when I’m a nervous wreck… make an appointment with me. I once arrived at school one week early because I was worried about arriving late. The headmistress asked me if I had a fever.
12. Friendships and relationships are just too difficult, so I tend not to bother with them.
Slightly Disagree? This question is a Pandora’s Box of sorts. Neither Agree no Disagree… and Hope may be the worst evil disguised as something else.
13. I would never break a law, no matter how minor.
Slightly Agree. Then… *whistles. Too vague.
14. I often find it difficult to judge if something is rude or polite.
Slightly Disagree. Again… too vague. Rude or polite according to who?
15. In a conversation, I tend to focus on my own thoughts rather than on what my listener might be thinking.
Strongly Disagree. In a conversation… if it’s with myself and no one else, of course I’m focused on my thoughts, however if someone else is part of this conversation, then I tend to shut my thoughts up and listen to them – depends on how loudly the other person is thinking and other factors such as did a conversation start with the other person asking me what I was thinking?
16. I prefer practical jokes to verbal humor.
Strongly Disagree. I hate practical jokes, but love verbal humour. Sometimes the lines between the two blur. Having said that… I did laugh at Jackass.
17. I live life for today rather than the future.
Strongly Agree. I’m alive today, fairly certain of that… the future…? But I do keep a mind’s eye on it.
18. When I was a child, I enjoyed cutting up worms to see what would happen.
Strongly Disagree. It has happened accidentally, and has become part of my excuse for not doing the gardening – the screaming in pain of plants and insects who are collateral damage. I did however find insects fascinating as a child, and did mess with ants a bit… they retaliated and I learned my lesson – Don’t mess with ants, they outnumber you.
19. I can pick up quickly if someone says one thing but means another.
Strongly Agree. I listen with more than just my ears, although doing that can usually be informative – if you include tone of voice and other verbal clues and cues. Body language can be very expressive and loud.
20. I tend to have very strong opinions about morality.
Slightly Agree? Morality is as subjective to interpret as Empathy, perhaps more so. I have a personal moral code, I am strongly opinionated about it where I am concerned. I apply it to myself and only apply it to others when the line between self and other overlaps and enters my territory.
21. It is hard for me to see why some things upset people so much.
Strongly Disagree. This is a basic of the usage of empathy. You wonder why someone is upset, then you put yourself in their shoes and figure it out from their perspective. It may or may not be something which would upset you – but it upset them, and you might be interested to know why.
22. I find it easy to put myself in somebody else’s shoes.
Strongly Agree. Other people’s shoes are fascinating to try on, they don’t always fit, but they are worth trying if only to see what they see, or to get another perspective on your own shoes. Lots of reasons to do it, and easy to do as people are always sharing their shoes.
23. I think that good manners are the most important thing a parent can teach their child.
Slightly Disagree. Good manners are important, they are part of a valuable set of social skills, but they are not the most important thing which a parent can teach a child. The motive and intention behind good manners, and the teaching of good manners, is important too. The motive and intention which the parent has in teaching the child good manners… that has bearing on what a child learns. This would fall under the – Don’t get me started… – list.
24. I like to do things on the spur of the moment.
Strongly Agree. I think in my first test I went with Slightly Agree on this. It was a spur of the moment answer.
25. I am good at predicting how someone will feel.
Strongly Agree. That’s a rather arrogant answer… however we’re all predictable if people (us included) pay attention.
26. I am quick to spot when someone in a group is feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
Strongly Agree. As that someone is usually me or at the receiving end of me… or I can relate because I’ve been there and still am there regularly. certain aspects of Empathy are just about remembering yourself and seeing yourself in someone else.
27. If I say something that someone else is offended by, I think that that’s their problem, not mine.
Slightly Agree. Depends on the context of the situation and those involved in it. I do use ‘That’s your problem and not mine’ quite a bit as a way to define the boundary between self and other, and not trespass or allow myself to be trespassed upon. Particularly where narcissists are concerned, my breathing might offend them so… if I make that my problem the solution is a bit drastic for me, and may offend me – is that my problem or theirs. Don’t get me started…
28. If anyone asked me if I liked their haircut, I would reply truthfully, even if I didn’t like it.
Slightly Disagree? Frankly I just want to answer this question with a lot of swearing at the person who asked it and included it in this test. You want Empathy!?! Here goes – I try never to put those whom I know in this position with regards to myself (and my haircut or anything else), and I always appreciate it when they don’t put me in this position either. The status of this question is – It’s complicated.
29. I can’t always see why someone should have felt offended by a remark.
Strongly Disagree… with your repetition of this point. We all get offended, we all offend. We can if we want to understand the why’s of it… Can the other person, this someone, see our side of the equation or are we the only one using Empathy here?
30. People often tell me that I am very unpredictable.
Slightly Agree. I have been told this. I have said this about myself and told myself this. I’m not as unpredictable as I think I am. I’ve told myself that too. Or as unpredictable as others may view me as being. Basically my unpredictability is predictable. And usually it is due to the other person expecting me to behave in a way that is not the way I would behave, rather than on me being unpredictable. They didn’t bother to get to know me, so I surprised them… which isn’t a surprise.
31. I enjoy being the center of attention at any social gathering.
Strongly Disagree. Having a blog is not proof of the opposite. If I liked being the centre of attention, this blog would be very different, as would my other social media outlets. I prefer being the observer, rather than the observed… unless I’m observing myself.
32. Seeing people cry doesn’t really upset me.
Slightly Disagree. Depends on why they are crying. If I ‘made’ them cry… sure I’m going to be upset, but I should really be focusing on them and their level of upset rather than mine. Not all people who cry want us to be upset about it. There are many variations on the crying theme. Sometimes it is an inspirational expression.
33. I enjoy having discussions about politics.
Slightly Agree. Enough said.
34. I am very blunt, which some people take to be rudeness, even though this is unintentional.
Strongly Agree. Some people actually seek me out because of my bluntness. It’s rarely if ever meant to be rude. I understand that it can be experienced that way. I try to curb it depending on who I am with, sometimes that attempt to curb it is more rude than the bluntness itself.
35. I don’t find social situations confusing.
Slightly Agree. See previous question (#8) and answer about this… or something similar to this.
36. Other people tell me I am good at understanding how they are feeling and what they are thinking.
Strongly Agree. I have occasionally been asked if I’m psychic or something along those lines. I’m not, I’m just listening to you, all of you, and you’re leaking your feelings and thoughts out of every pore in your being. It would be harder to miss it than notice it.
37. When I talk to people, I tend to talk about their experiences rather than my own.
Strongly Agree. I know my own experiences, I’ve talked with myself about them at length, sometimes I bore myself to death (not just something I do to others) when I repeat them, especially if I’m repeating them for the ears of someone else who hasn’t heard them before. I’d rather hear about you, that’s new to me (until it isn’t). I am also a deflector (and those who know me catch me doing this all the time). It’s that and that… and other that’s too, such as I learn about myself from what I learn about you. Not as mercenary as it sounds if you get something out of it too.
38. It upsets me to see an animal in pain.
Strongly Agree. No need to explain this further or ad lib! Pain is pain, it’s universally felt.
39. I am able to make decisions without being influenced by people’s feelings.
Slightly Agree. Depends on the decision and whether it influences others, and other factors which need to be considered.
40. I can’t relax until I have done everything I had planned to do that day.
Strongly Disagree. If that was my criteria for relaxing… I’d be wondering wtf ‘relaxing’ meant.
41. I can easily tell if someone else is interested or bored with what I am saying.
Strongly Agree. When someone is genuinely interested in the conversation it comes alive and flows back and forth with electric energy. It’s a mutual adventure. When someone is bored, the energy is lethargic and the conversation dies. You can do CPR on it, but maybe it was better to DNR it. It’s mutual torture.
42. I get upset if I see people suffering on news programs.
Slightly Agree. News programs these days (maybe always) are as manipulative as film and TV. You’re likely only to get one side of a story, and sometimes the side you get is that of the reporter and/or media company whose motives are…?
43. Friends usually talk to me about their problems as they say that I am very understanding.
Strongly Agree. Sigh… sometimes, not always. Depends on how reciprocal this understanding is. Such as whether they can understand that I am not in an understanding mood.
44. I can sense if I am intruding, even if the other person doesn’t tell me.
Strongly Agree. People tell you about themselves and their status without needing to tell you. We all do that, those who can’t hear it… maybe don’t want to hear it because that is their status.
45. I often start new hobbies, but quickly become bored with them and move on to something else.
Slightly Agree. Probably falls under Neither Agree nor Disagree and Don’t get me started… If I don’t start it how will I know whether to continue or not?
46. People sometimes tell me that I have gone too far with teasing.
Slightly Agree. Ask my cat for more about this.
47. I would be too nervous to go on a big rollercoaster.
Strongly Disagree. WTF!?! How is this related to Empathy!?!
48. Other people often say that I am insensitive, though I don’t always see why.
Strongly Disagree. I’ve been told the opposite, but they still might not know the why’s of it. I’m actually endeavouring to be less sensitive and more insensitive, I know the why’s of it.
49. If I see a stranger in a group, I think that it is up to them to make an effort to join in.
Strongly Disagree. It is partly up to them, they might not want to join in, but it is up to the group to offer membership first, then let them decide to accept or reject – that part is up to them. Once they decide, then if they change their mind, that too is up to them. Relationships flow both ways. Someone has to start the flow… if we’re all waiting for someone to do that…?
50. I usually stay emotionally detached when watching a film.
Slightly Agree. Depends on the film. Some films are very manipulative, better to remain detached. However… sometimes it’s fun to be manipulated and enjoy the ride. Really depends on the film. And on you when you’re watching it. Not sure how this relates to levels of Empathy since it is an artificial situation. I suppose it is a way to practice Empathy in a non-personal, non-real-people environment.
51. I like to be very organized in day-to-day life and often makes lists of the chores I have to do.
Strongly Disagree. Hahahahahahaha!!!
52. I can tune into how someone else feels rapidly and intuitively.
Strongly Agree. And I can tune out quickly too. Although it is easier to tune in than tune out.
53. I don’t like to take risks.
Slightly Disagree? I just picked an answer and went with it. No idea. Waking up, for me, is a risk… so is staying asleep.
54. I can easily work out what another person might want to talk about.
Strongly Agree. I do that thing known as asking them what they want to discuss. If they say – I don’t know – then we’ll chat about that!
55. I can tell if someone is masking their true emotion.
Strongly Agree. Emotions are usually rebellious about wearing whatever mask our mind is trying to make them wear.
56. Before making a decision, I always weigh up the pros and cons.
Strongly Agree. Which often ends up with me – Neither Agreeing nor Disagreeing, and the decision becomes a moot point. Dither, dither… just close your eyes and… pick that! Damn, not that, this! No… oh… whatever!
57. I don’t consciously work out the rules of social situations.
Strongly Disagree. If I don’t work them out consciously, then they’re not being worked out and shit it going to hit the fan. It may hit it anyway, but at least I have an umbrella, some sanitiser and won’t be so surprised about consequences and such.
58. I am good at predicting what someone will do.
Strongly Agree. We’ve already covered the predictability of humans somewhere else in this test. You could just ask someone what they’ll do and they’ll probably tell you. People do lie. That’s predictable too. But they also tell the truth. Just like you.
59. I tend to get emotionally involved with a friend’s problems.
Slightly Agree. If someone is a friend then I’m already emotionally involved whether they have a problem or not, however the extent of the emotional involvement… depends on the context and situation. What do you do when the problem involve two friends who are having an emotionally issue with each other and want you to pick sides. That rollercoaster ride sounds very appealing compared to this.
60. I can usually appreciate the other person’s viewpoint, even if I don’t agree with it.
Strongly Agree. This is the greatest gift which Empathy can give you – the ability to understand, even if not all of you is willing to understand.
I have to confess that at some point I began to confuse Agree and Disagree, and miss whether the question was asking me something in the negative or positive – ‘Don’t’ began to get skimmed and read as ‘Do’ – and stuff like that. Taking tests has never been my strong point… which may make it a weak point. Not sure… Slightly Agree? or Slightly Disagree?… which is which… really confused, need some empathy… I mean…?
Enough about me, what about you?