Empathy
Image by Sean MacEntee

According to the 2018 RBC report Humans Wanted: How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption, there will be 2.4 million job openings between 2018 and 2021, and the strongest demand will be for foundational skills such as communication, empathy and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and analysis. Among these, empathy is often singled out as a key skill for future employability.

 

What is empathy?

“Empathy is an interpersonal skill that can be viewed as part of emotional intelligence,” writes psychologist John Malouff. “In its most complete form, empathy involves understanding the emotion of another person, feeling the emotion and responding appropriately to it.”

“Empathy is a complex set of brain activities that come together to help people experience and interpret the actions, behaviours and emotions of others,” according to Elizabeth Segal, author of Social Empathy: The Art of Understanding Others.

Empathy is an interpersonal skill that can be viewed as part of emotional intelligence.

— John Malouff

 

Here is how researcher Brené Brown explains empathy:

 

Can empathy be taught?

Usually, children learn empathy from their parents, who explain their own emotions to their children, Malouff says. “Parents can model empathy by showing it when the child has a strong emotion, whether fear, surprise or something else.”

But not everyone is naturally empathetic. There is some evidence, Malouff says, that behaviour skills training for empathy can have a positive effect. As well, you can increase your empathy on your own by paying careful attention to your mind. Psychologist Marcia Reynolds tells you how.

 

Why is empathy important for future employability?

In-demand skills for the future workplace are those that artificial intelligence (AI) can’t easily replicate.

At the top of a list of jobs AI can’t do better than humans, Bernard Marr cites those requiring empathy and communication: “We are a long way away from any technology that can genuinely recognize human emotions and respond to them appropriately.”

And, says Rachel Russell at HR Technologist: “In a new world of learning and human capability, even the deepest technical skill will be enhanced by a demonstrated ability to adapt to change and manage the human side of work.”

We are a long way away from any technology that can genuinely recognize human emotions and respond to them appropriately.

— Bernard Marr

Further, the RBC report points out that young Canadians “will need to work well with an increasingly diverse range of other people—business partners from around the world, plus co-workers of all ages, genders, languages and cultures,” and these soft skills will be needed across all occupations, including those in STEM. The report also notes that “breadth of skills will be more important than proficiency.” To thrive in the workplace, then, workers will need to embrace lifelong learning to amass a repertoire of skills.

This training will likely take place online. Are you interested in exploring online skills training? Think about enrolling in an open-access course or certificate program at Queen’s Professional Studies.