Against Empathy

He was engaged in a wonderful conversation with one of his dear friends on the topic of empathy – an attribute he considered his core leadership strength.

She agreed that he was very empathetic. She wasn’t sure if it was correct for him to be such. ‘Being empathetic impedes judgment and hampers both professional and personal success. You cannot take rational (dispassionate) decisions if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.’

He was intrigued about how she would view it as such. He posited that she was confusing empathy with pity. It is pity – not empathy – when you are overborne by others’ pain and take actions to reduce suffering. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s context but doing what is in her or his best interest. It is never an all-encompassing, all-governing feeling. It is always, or at least should always be, coupled with sound reason. He was too well aware of this phenomenon.


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