What % Empathetic Are You?

By: Elisabeth Henderson

What % Empathetic Are You?
Image: DjelicS / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Empathy, that ability to imagine what someone else is going through and share in their feelings, provides the bedrock for healthy relationships between individuals and communities. If we can’t imagine someone else’s experience, we’re more likely to simply pursue our own interests at the expense of others. For the world to be a pleasant place of mutual harmony and not just a dog-eat-dog arena, we need empathy. 

Empathy has been expressly valued in American culture since the mid-20th-century. After World War II, “social scientists and psychologists started more aggressively pushing the concept into the culture” as a way to avoid mutually-assured destruction by nuclear warfare, according to the NPR story “The End of Empathy.” However, social scientists have been noticing a decline in people holding empathy as a personal value starting in the 1960s. For decades, researcher Sara Koranth studied people’s agreement levels to claims like “It’s not really my problem if others are in trouble and need my help” and “Before criticizing someone, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.” Her research found that young people today are 40% less empathetic than youngsters in the 60s (NPR). Yikes. Does that bode well for our future? 

While empathy is learned from infancy, it’s not too late to develop greater empathy as an adult. “Psychology Today” author David F. Zwink offers that some “roadblocks” to empathy can be overcome. For one thing, in order to feel the pain that another person is experiencing, he says we must notice that the person is in pain (duh, right?). Turning off devices and tuning into each other may be powerful building blocks for building empathy (um, that’s a little more difficult).

What about you? Do you need remedial empathy instruction, or are you going to train the next generation? Let’s find out with this quiz! 

If you’re stopped at a traffic light and someone has a sign that says, “NEED HELP,” what do you do
Empty out my wallet in their hand
Select a small bill out of my wad of bills
Look the other direction, but feel bad about it
Don’t even see them

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If someone was being bullied on the playground when you were a child, how would you react?
Physically go to the child being bullied and try to stop the bully
From the periphery, shout at the bully to stop it
Go tell a teacher what was happening
Join in the fun

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When you notice a stray cat beneath a bush by your house, what is your reaction?
Put on some gloves and a thick shirt, pull the cat out and get it spayed or neutered.
Bring it a bowl of food
Call the city animal rescue operation
Call pest control

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When you hear a story on the radio about a dire refugee situation unfolding in another country, what are your thoughts?
Figuring out how to get to that country to personally be a part of the relief work
Finding out how to donate to the relief work
Worrying about how those people are surviving
Find another station

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When you accidentally knocked over your sibling when you were a kid, what did you do next?
Stop in my tracks to help them up and made sure they were OK
Turn around and ask if they’re OK
Say sorry as I run on and also “don’t tell mom!”
Pretend I didn’t notice

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If you were driving and saw a turtle crossing a busy street, what would you do?
Stop the car and go across lanes of traffic to retrieve the turtle, then take it home and care for it.
Block the traffic with your car and call animal rescue
Call animal rescue while you keep driving
10 points!

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When your neighbor is sick, what is your inclination?
Go over to their house to care for them
Make them soup and deliver it
Send them a text hoping they feel better
Stay clear of them

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If a stranger asked you to borrow your cell phone, what would you say?
Here it is.
I’ll call a number for you.
Here’s money for a pay phone.
Nope.

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Which of the following do you most value?
Taking care of those in need
Taking care of my community
Taking care of family
Moving up in my career

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What makes you happiest?
Seeing comfort on a suffering person’s face
Knowing that I’ve made a difference in someone’s life
Feeling that I don’t have to worry about a needy person anymore
Knowing that at least that horrible thing didn’t happen to me

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How would you feel if a visitor in your home took a shower and used your towel?
I’d be glad they were able to get dry.
I’d wish I had remembered to set one out for them.
I’d be slightly annoyed.
I’d be disgusted.

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What responsibility do you have to care for strangers in need?
The same as my own family.
If I’m able to do something, I should.
If I can help without too much trouble, I should.
It’s not my responsibility.

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Who is your home for?
Whoever needs a roof over their head
My family and my neighbors
My family and friends
Just me and my family

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When someone is telling you about their experience, what are you doing mentally?
Actively imagining what their experience was like and what they must have felt
Trying to put myself in their shoes and imagining how I would have felt
Alternately listening and thinking about what I’m going to say next
Waiting for the conversation to change

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When you find out that a colleague has had a death in the family, what do you feel?
Deep grief
A vague sadness
A sense that I should feel sad for them
Awkward

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How do you approach someone whose views completely oppose your own?
I ask them questions to try to understand where they’re coming from.
I ask them questions to try to get them to see gaps in their perspective.
I debate with them about issues I feel strongly about.
I berate them for their views.

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If a child is trying hard to tell you something, but you can’t understand them, what do you think?
I wish so much that I knew what they were saying so I could understand their mind better.
This sweet child is trying so hard.
Ok, little one, are you almost finished?
Enough, kid.

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What is the purpose of relationships?
To grow through meeting the other person where they are
To face the joys and hardships of life together
To bring each other enjoyment
To get what you need from another person

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If you hear someone say something that you disagree with deeply, what do you think about them?
They must have good reasons for how they feel.
Poor misguided soul
If they knew better, they woudn’t think that way.
That idiot

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If you see a destitute person without a jacket, while you’re walking home with your designer jacket on on a cold night, what’s your next move?
Place the jacket on their shoulders
See if I have something warm in my car
Hope that someone can help that person stay warm
Walk faster

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If a friend comes over in the evening unannounced, and you only have one drink left in the fridge, what do you do?
Offer them the drink
Offer them the drink, but hint that it’s the last one
Offer to split a drink with them
Save it for later

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When you are in the midst of a heated argument with someone you love, where does your mind go?
I wonder what is making them feel so strongly about this.
I wish they could understand my point of view.
I am angry with them for not understanding me.
I think they are a hateful fool.

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How do you see your role when someone you love is struggling emotionally?
I’m there to listen and join them in the struggle.
I’m there to comfort them with hugs and ice cream.
I’ll come over to take them out for some distraction.
I may just go underground for awhile.

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What do you consider when you raise a complaint at work?
I think about how the person responsible for the complaint will feel about the issue I’m raising.
I word my complaint carefully so I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
I am very careful to give an accurate description of what happened.
I’m ready to throw an enemy under the bus.

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When you answer the phone and it’s someone making calls for a political campaign you do not support, what is your line?
I’m listening.
Thank you for your call, but I’m supporting the other candidate.
Sorry, I’m for the other guy. Click.
What are you thinking? Don’t you know that...

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What can tell you the most about a person?
Hearing them tell their personal story
Finding out about their childhood
Seeing a picture of them from childhood
People just show you what they want you to see.

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In the story of the Good Samaritan, a man is beaten by thieves and left on the road. Two people see him and walk on the other side of the road. One man picks him up and takes him to an innkeeper to help him get well. Which one are you?
The one who helps him.
The innkeeper
I walk on the other side of the road.
The thief

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What is your motto?
None of us is free until all of us are free
Treat others how you want to be treated
What goes around comes around.
Eat, drink, and be merry.

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When you are on a plane, and a baby is wailing, what do you think?
That poor baby
Those poor parents
Poor me
Get the baby off the plane.

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When someone has hurt you badly, what kind of self talk do you engage in?
I try to imagine what good reasons might have motivated their actions.
I try to tell myself that no one is perfect, remembering the ways I’ve hurt them too.
I brood over why this particular injury is so hurtful.
I think of how I can hurt them back.

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