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linguaphile's avatar

Do you think there's a correlation between having empathy and a strong sense of self-accountability?

Asked by linguaphile (13545 points ) January 9th, 2014

I was listening to someone today. I’ve always known this guy has very little empathy- his son is exactly the same way. They’re not bad people, just don’t relate to others on an emotional level. They both also have a very low sense of responsibility for their own actions. It’s easy for them to see how others “caused” them to behave a certain way.

That got me thinking about my highly empathetic friends and realized that they all also had a heightened sense of being responsible for their own actions. Umm…

Coincidence or correlation? What do you think?

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14 Answers

Coloma's avatar

A lot may have to do with temperament and personality theory.
Certain types are feelers and others are thinkers, to simplify drastically.
Thinkers can be seen as less empathetic or emotional by the more feeling oriented types.
Doesn’t mean they don’t feel or have caring emotions but they are more emotionally reserved

However, yes, personal accountability is a trait of maturity and integrity and bypasses temperament.
Nature/nurture, as always.
Sounds like these two are under developed whatever type they are. lol

rojo's avatar

From someone who feels like they have a strong sense of personal responsibility yet wonders at their lack of emotional attachment or empathy for others I have to say that, at least from my perspective, there is not any correlation.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Great connection made here @linguaphile. I’m not qualified to make a global judgement. But what you infer resonates truthfully with me.

ibstubro's avatar

I, too, have great empathy for people and a highly developed sense of self-accountability.

Yet I admit that, like @rojo I have problems with emotional attachment.

Seems we’re all over the board here, making for a potentially ‘great question’.

:-)

JLeslie's avatar

I think you might be able to find a correlation, but correlations aren’t necessarily meaningful.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Same as @itsboro. Responsible, empathetic but distant.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

No one causes me to do anything. It’s all me. And guess what? I’m always responsible for my actions.

BosM's avatar

Yes, Empathy and Self awareness/accountability are two major components of Emotional Intelligence. If you want more information read the work of Daniel Goleman on the topic of Emotional Intelligence.
Self-Awareness, Self Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_59.htm

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

From my personal aquaintances only, I would say so.

Bill1939's avatar

Though there may be genetic predilections for the expressions of one’s emotions and one’s intellectual explorations, the social environment shapes these latent expressions and often produces a behavioral bias as one’s character evolves from infant to adult. Empathy requires one to shift their focus of consciousness away from self and toward others. Empathy allows one to experience how their action has affected someone and choose to repeat or avoid that act.

However, I am not sure how accountability relates to this choice. While empathy requires an expanded consciousness, awareness of self and others, it does not require cognitive recognition of the emotional dynamics associated with which choice to act is made. Even with an ability to empathize, one might feel that they were impelled by the acts of others to make the choice; “You made me do that.”

thorninmud's avatar

I agree with that both are aspects of emotional intelligence, which is basically the ability to read accurately the feelings and motivations both of yourself and others. Empathy is emotional intelligence directed outward: you have an accurate insight into the emotional landscape of others. Self-accountability is emotional intelligence directed inward: you have a clear experiential understanding of your own motives and feelings. That implies that you honestly face up to your own weaknesses, and don’t make others take responsibility for them.

But it’s possible to be more adept at either the inward- or outward-directed emotional intelligence. One can be quite in touch with one’s own internal process while being oblivious to that of others, and vice versa.

rojo's avatar

It is also possible to go through cycles as you age. I know my son was a very empathic child but as a teen and young adult he worked hard to project a harder, colder, more distant persona. It was his late twenties, after many personal trials and tribulations, that he became more accepting of his real nature and realized that expressions of empathy are not expressions of weakness.

Gabby101's avatar

I love @thorninmud‘s answer!

I think it’s interesting that people say they are empathetic and hold themselves accountable but feel that they are emotionally distant or have issues with emotional attachment. I feel the same way – I don’t have a ton of friends, (but I have good friends), and don’t have any from my childhood days. I move on when friendships stop working. I find it hard to overlook when a friend does “unfriendly” things because logically, if they do it often enough, they are not friends.

linguaphile's avatar

I enjoyed all you responses! Thank you. I really like the inward/outward perspective that @thorninmud describes.

From you input, I have started to see a separation between a person having empathy, becoming connected or becoming involved. They are distinct actions—one isn’t needed for the other two to happen, and so on.

I thought about it… I can have empathy for many people—especially if I understand the circumstances that brought them into a situation, but that doesn’t mean I need to become emotionally connected to their consequences. A good example is when I was a high school teacher, I felt empathy everyday for my students and their issues, but it would’ve been very dangerous to become emotionally invested in their choices and decisions. Getting involved is another matter entirely. I have great empathy for people in domestic violence situations, but because of my own history, my desire to help far outweighs my ability to help- involvement for me is not a wise decision.

So, after processing everyone’s input—- someone doesn’t have to be involved or connected to feel empathy. If we take out connections or involvements, then look at it again… it does seem to me that empathy and accountability (as in knowing how your actions affect others, not self blame) are related somehow.

going to peruse some more…..

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