What is empathy?

Dr. Marsha Lucas
At the entry level, empathy is "the ability to be affected by and share the emotional state of another being" (as renowned primatologist Frans de Waal, PhD, thinks of it). Anyone who's ever loved a dog knows what I'm talking about -- if you're happy, the dog's happy. If you're blue, the dog's blue. This is the ground floor of empathy.

This first level of empathy isn't even something we decide to do. It's an automatic, involuntary activity that starts in the body. You detect what others are feeling, and before you can even register it consciously, you feel it. Period. Before you even know it.

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