Sunday, June 13, 2010


I once did a personality test with a management consultant.

You ended up with five key 'traits' My top one was 'empathy'. I have always thought of myself as empathetic - and seen it as a largely female trait. Sometimes I am so weighed down by a sense of others that I lose all sense of myself. If I sit down and exercise my imagination, I can walk in someone else's shoes. If someone exhibits an (even very subtle) emotional response to something, I feel it. If a person's predicament is presented to me in an artistic way (film or tv; written word; verbal explanation) I live it.

But I am not so good at empathising with someone when there is no emotion or communication involved. I often completely fail to predict that an action or set of circumstances will have a certain impact on a person. I am not pragmatic in my empathy: I am sentimental.

Quite a lot of blokes are the other way around: they'll fail to notice a communication or presentation of emotion but will foresee and make allowances for the practical impact a situation is likely to have on someone else's life.

I reckon that's empathy of a different kind. Maybe we should have a masculine and feminine variety.

Fempathy and manpathy.