Most of us know the importance of empathy, but how many genuinely display empathy?
A 2015 survey by non-profit organisation World Vision Singapore showed that, among 350 respondents in Singapore aged 15 to 35, only 53.4 per cent took action to help the less fortunate, despite 92.5 per cent believing in the importance of this cause.
Though these statistics are not representative of all young people, they indicate that steps must be taken to make young Singaporeans more empathetic individuals.
As a healthcare student, I am often reminded it is important to display empathy towards patients.
Empathy can be loosely defined as the ability to understand personal experiences and share the feelings of another. One can gain empathy through shared or similar experiences, or extensive understanding of another’s circumstances.
I am very encouraged that in recent years, there has been a rise in youth-led initiatives in the areas of community service and community engagement. One such example is Youth Corps Singapore, in which there are many opportunities for youth to help various communities while developing empathy through exposure to them.
Another example would be in local universities. At the National University of Singapore (NUS), there has been a new focus on community and engagement. A new module in this area has been made compulsory for the majority of NUS students.
Also, the residential college I live in, the College of Alice and Peter Tan, has spent the last decade cultivating empathy through community engagement. Many have immersed themselves in various communities and gained new understanding of these communities while developing empathy.
I, too, have been inspired and followed in their footsteps.
The importance of having empathy does not extend only to helping marginalised communities or the less fortunate. It applies in many areas, such as interactions with family members, friends or colleagues.
According to research firm Nielsen, success in the area of fast-moving consumer goods arises from “walking in the shoes of the consumer to uncover key demand-driven insights”.
Similarly, young Singaporeans need to be proactive and seek opportunities to gain a different perspective of the world and understand others. It is through these that we can be more empathetic individuals.
Samuel Ng Cheng Yong, 23
Year 2 university student