Can empathy be taught to someone who doesn't know how to react to another person's sadness?

Can empathy be taught to someone who doesn't know how to react to another person's sadness?
Honestly it's the only thing that's missing in my marriage but it would help me feel more supported by my husband.
Do men in general have a hard time with showing empathy?
I was raised by a very caring and loving dad, he was always the first to give me a hug if something was wrong.

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Most Helpful Guys

  • Don't think so unless a miracle happens with God.

    People who lack empathy tend be psychologically damaged or crippled from childhood where they didn't get enough love and care when they needed most.

    Once a person becomes a adult and been in a stage of lacking empathy for years probably begining as a teen then it's pretty much a done deal they will never have.

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    • Take no offence but I hope you are wrong.
      He did grow up with a toughen up attitude care of his alcoholic dad.
      But when I compare him and my father in law as dads my husband is definitely more involved.

    • Then your husband doesn't really lack empathy, but more he probably has a hard shell and isn't overly emotional.

      People who really lack empathy tend to monsters and cruel people i. e serial killers and those abusive types personalities.

    • I did have a talk to him about it the other day and he does know what I need but he just doesn't know to react if something has made me sad, he kind of tunes out from it all.

  • I fear people either have it or they don't... and if they don't, it depends on what's preventing it as to whether it can be changed.
    I have had employees, for example, who have been called out for lacking empathy by co-workers. In the end I hired a coach and gave us all a course in the subject (among other things). The results were interesting - some of those who lacked empathy improved after the course, but others were entirely unaffected by it. More than that, they really didn't 'get' the section about empathy and just switched off during it.

    Some people lack empathy because of a personality disorder (narcissism, typically), in which case nothing will shake them out of it. Others lack empathy subconsciously and just need a reminder now and then to show it more.

    I hope your husband is in the latter category.

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    • Me too I do know that he is not a narcissist because he cares about his kids and has started to put his family before anything else.

    • OK that's good then... in which case a gentle reminder now and then or, better still, leading the issue by example (by being hugely empathetic yourself) might be enough...

Most Helpful Girl

  • Yes it can. They might not actually feel it but they can portray and mimick the emotions that they’re supposed to feel

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What Guys Said 11

  • A lot of men find this kind of thing awkward, and their response is to back away from it. It shouldn't be, it's more of a cultural thing. From what you've said, it's "doesn't know how to react" rather than "can't react", so I think in his case, it is a case of teaching.

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  • Maybe. I figured out how to feel for others when I was 3 or 4 years old. Some people are 60s and have no clue because they’re too self-centered. I bet it would take years of living a life that forces them to think of others. I don’t think they can just read a book about it.

    There are also people who act like they have feelings but it’s all shallow fakery. You can’t be sure that everyone who seems empathetic actually is

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  • I don't have empathy, I never connected with people from a young age so it never developed. The best you could get is imitation, I myself don't feel anything if someone gets hurt or is upset but I imitate caring and such to fit in because most other people would care if someone was hurt or upset.

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  • You already have empathy if you're asking this question. That means you're afraid of revealing your vulnerabilities to others.
    People have traumatic events and develop a "lack of empathy" as a response.

    You need to heal your emotional wounds.

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  • I think it has to be built into child's personality, some kids were raised in a rough environment, they won't understand someone else's problems, particularly if they seem trivial to them.

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  • Two different things. One is showing empathy; that's just training. The other is having empathy; that can't be taught. Not having empathy (ASPD), is like being tone deaf. You can't overcome it with training..

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  • Hmm, if that person lack of empathy has a neurological explication, all the process of teaching that person to be empathic has be designed according to his brain function.

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  • Might be possible but it's very unlikely. Most won't hear you to begin with. Most don't even have the capability to sympathize (selfish jerks).

    Me? I grew up in harsh conditions starting from my second part of my childhood and what i experienced changed me forever. I can't sympathize because I'm a wreck and damaged goods myself and i can't do anything about it any more.
    But I'm not all that completely careless. You just won't see my emotions and stuff.

    What i will say now i will refer to using the word "you" to any person.

    if you've been physically hurt and if i have a spare plaster, i will apply that to you. But I'm not going to tell you "holy shit what happened to you? Poor you. This must hurt like hell. Please be careful next time because i care for you".

    Conversely if you for example (this is a real example by the way) quit your job on your own initiative and then struggle for a long time to find any job at all, i won't relate at all. Because This was your choice.

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  • Of course. :)

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  • I personally don't think so

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  • Empathy should come on it's own.

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What Girls Said 3

  • I think it can, it takes time but it can be learned. It requires experiencing hard ship first though.

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  • I don’t believe you can teach empathy, you have got to be of a certain nature or have suffered in the same way to fully and truthfully empathise with someone

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  • Cognitive empathy yes but not emotionall empathy

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