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Kathy Marshack News

Can a Person Be Kind without Empathy?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Can a Person Be Kind without EmpathyYou’ve no doubt heard the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. From an early age, parents try to teach their children to be kind. As we grow into adulthood, we can either enhance this trait through practice, or we can lose it due to outside influences or our own selfish tendencies.

Kindness and empathy usually go hand in hand, as they both help you to relate to others. Kindness can improve personal relationships and make you healthier. There are other benefits, as well…

Kindness releases feel-good brain chemicals. You feel better when you do something nice because it releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins, plus the hormone oxytocin. All of these flood your nervous system with a sense of well-being and satisfaction.

Kindness eases anxiety and stress. Performing kind acts gets your mind off of yourself, as you focus on helping others. It also gives you something positive to do. The satisfaction from helping others bolsters your own sense of well-being.

Kindness improves health. Interestingly, a study of adults aged 57-85, “Productive activities—and frequent volunteering in particular—may protect individuals from inflammation that is associated with increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

Yet when we dig deeper into the motivation behind acts of kindness, we begin to see how acts of kindness can be performed without empathy. We’ve all read about those who contribute money, just for the notoriety; not because they care about the people that money will help.

For another example, those with Asperger Syndrome (high functioning Autism) need to be taught etiquette and rules, or what I call Rules of Engagement (ROE). (Find an example in this blog post.) Whereas, NTs develop a kind heart as a result of deeply caring for the feelings of others.

Looking at this another way, the Golden Rule is just a rule to our Aspies. It might be a rule they believe in – and will hold us to that rule for their benefit. However, to NTs the Golden Rule is a necessary part of any relationship, because it moves the relationship forward.

Further the Golden Rule is flexible, isn't? We don't always treat others as we wish they would treat us. Rather we, NTs, make discriminations about what we might say or do, based on whether it’s true, necessary, and kind. These decisions require the use of enhanced empathy, to read the subtle cues that occur at the moment of interaction. It's not always kind to just blurt things out, is it? Even if you mean well, some comments are better left unsaid. For Aspies this axiom is a mystery.

I think empathy is one of the main reasons we run into snags with our Aspies. That’s why my free January Teleconference is called: Can Aspies Be Kind Without Empathy? It will be held on Thursday, January 24th at 2:30 PM PT. Once you get it that they can be kind, given the right Rules of Engagement, then it's much easier to navigate your relationship. It's important to understand that you can have empathy, or you can be kind, but empathic kindness…well, that’s part of Radiant Empathy.



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