CIBER Focus Interview with Dr. Fritz Breithaupt, October 3, 2018
When most people think of empathy, they view it as a purely positive force. It allows individuals to connect with and show compassion to one another. While these traits remain true, what often gets overlooked is some of the negative impacts that can also be associated with empathy. In this edition of CIBER Focus, Dr. Fritz Breithaupt shares his insights on these unintended effects of empathy and how they have impacted modern society.
Dr. Breithaupt makes it clear that he does not believe empathy is inherently a bad thing, as it does feature many benefits to humanity. However, it is also important to fully understand some of the costs associated as well. These can range from exhaustion as a result of overuse of empathy, to the phenomenon of “sadistic empathy,” where a person will intentionally put someone else into a damaging position to create a feeling of empathy between the individuals. Dr. Breithaupt discusses several other examples in both the video and his research which further expand on some of the harmful consequences of empathy.
Dr. Breithaupt applies these concepts to many situations, including the relationship between empathy and politics. Specifically, we look at the effects on empathy on refugee policies as well as the increased divisiveness in the modern political landscape. Looking forward, Dr. Breithaupt emphasizes the importance of continuing to use empathy, but to always be conscious of it to be aware of the potential harm that can be caused if not monitored closely. Business students, executives, and those who engage internationally should look further into the components of empathy in their decision making and understand how empathy impacts others’ choices in the environment.