What % Empathetic Are You?

Elisabeth Henderson

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

If someone was being bullied on the playground when you were a child, how would you react?

When you notice a stray cat beneath a bush by your house, what is your reaction?

When you hear a story on the radio about a dire refugee situation unfolding in another country, what are your thoughts?

When you accidentally knocked over your sibling when you were a kid, what did you do next?

If you were driving and saw a turtle crossing a busy street, what would you do?

When your neighbor is sick, what is your inclination?

If a stranger asked you to borrow your cell phone, what would you say?

Which of the following do you most value?

What makes you happiest?

How would you feel if a visitor in your home took a shower and used your towel?

What responsibility do you have to care for strangers in need?

Who is your home for?

When someone is telling you about their experience, what are you doing mentally?

When you find out that a colleague has had a death in the family, what do you feel?

How do you approach someone whose views completely oppose your own?

If a child is trying hard to tell you something, but you can’t understand them, what do you think?

What is the purpose of relationships?

If you hear someone say something that you disagree with deeply, what do you think about them?

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?

If a friend comes over in the evening unannounced, and you only have one drink left in the fridge, what do you do?

When you are in the midst of a heated argument with someone you love, where does your mind go?

How do you see your role when someone you love is struggling emotionally?

What do you consider when you raise a complaint at work?

When you answer the phone and it’s someone making calls for a political campaign you do not support, what is your line?

What can tell you the most about a person?

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?

What is your motto?

When you are on a plane, and a baby is wailing, what do you think?

When someone has hurt you badly, what kind of self talk do you engage in?

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