While people mostly discuss empathy as a way to connect more positively with other humans, there is a dark side as there is with everything. The more we come to identify with and understand other people’s thoughts and feelings, the better we become at being able to predict how they will react or what they will do at any given time. This gives us a handy tool to obtain the upper edge in our relationships.
People who have a strong sense of empathy can use this skill to manipulate others for good or bad.
Manipulation is Projection’s Cousin
But the funny thing about being skilled at manipulating others is that some people who think they have strong empathy are actually only projecting their own thoughts and feelings on everyone else. So maybe they might think that they can press others’ buttons and gain the upper hand in relationships by, say, creating a love triangle that creates jealousy.
Manipulation is the Illusion of Empathy
In reality, the person who is trying to gain attention by creating some sort of unhealthy psychological dynamic as such, may not be as skilled at having empathy toward others as he or she might imagine. In which case, is project emotion really empathy at all? People who have empathy ideally must remain impartial and easily able to slip in and out of other people’s mindsets in order to effectively understand them.
Persuasion is Based on Empathy
Another interesting skill born of empathy is being persuasive. Skilled salespeople, or people whose strong suit is persuasive writing, may also have high levels of empathy. They are able to formulate a compelling argument that effectively brings people to one or the other side of a situation based on their ability to press their emotional hot buttons at just the right moment.
This is a useful skill to have as a salesperson, politician, or interestingly, someone like a religious missionary.