Written by Emma Seppala.
In workplaces and families across the world, communication has gone online. We send texts and endless emails; we video chat rather than travel across town to meet. Actually sitting down and interacting with someone in person can seem like a rare luxury.
But as technology spreads, are we losing our ability to connect and empathize with others—and with it, the happiness and success that empathy brings? How can compassion happen if face-to-face time is slowly disappearing?
Luckily, though, empathy relies on more than reading facial expressions. In fact, new research is suggesting just how powerful the voice can be to help us connect, and it’s good news for our technological lifestyle.
Listening for empathy
The way we usually try to identify other people’s emotions is through their facial expressions—their eyes in particular. We are told that “the eyes are the windows to the soul,” and eye contact is certainly critical in empathy. Many psychologists use the Reading the Mind in the Eyes exercise to test empathy for their experiments. The idea is that, if you can detect the subtle shifts in the looks people give you, you can understand what they are feeling and respond appropriately.
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