The Evolution of Empathy: Lessons from our Ancestors’ Decision To Work Together

This blog and the book Mean People Sauck have covered empathy. Is empathy something we are born with? It can be learned.

Although empathy is a learned skill, there is plenty of evidence that it has been a part of human nature for a long time. It is possible to trace the evolution of empathy back to before homo sapiens walked this planet.

Empathy allowed us to cooperate and work together, leading to our survival as species. What happened next?

The Origins of Empathy

Dr. Mollie Castelloe offers a deep dive into this topic in her article ” The Evolutionary Origins of Empathy.” She explains that the desire to cooperate stemmed from necessity in pre-human childrearing practices. She says this critical shift to cooperation gave rise to the modern human emotions of compassion and understanding toward others.

As a way to ensure the survival of our offspring, our ancestors shared childbearing responsibilities. Both humans and the people we descend from are hard-coded to survive.

People do better when they work together as a team. They discovered that building relationships and working together made everyone better.

Empathy was more than a feeling. It became a necessity. These same bonds that brought together primitive species to share food, shelter, care, and collaboration are still very relevant today.

When did empathy’s evolution begin to stall? We live with many mean people these days.

Empathy: Inherent? What is the difference between learned and lost?

We are not born with empathy. However, we may be predisposed to be cooperative. We acquire heart at a young age, but then we lose it.

Although it is part of our evolutionary history, it is not a genetic trait. Our ancestors couldn’t feel empathy.

They also learned and kept it coming because it helped them live longer.

We don’t have to be compassionate to survive in today’s world. While you can be successful on your own, working in a group, particularly at work, is better. Empathy is a critical component of Emotional Intelligence.

Empathy in the workplace is a problem. It’s also rare at the top. Toxic bosses and managers are screwing your company. They may have lost the ability to connect or have the false perspective of being empathetic as to be weak.

It’s not. It’s not okay to be mean. It is a weakness to instill fear in your employees. It is not easy to show compassion. It is what makes us human, according to most.

What can we learn about the evolution of empathy?

Dr. Castelloe’s article was so impactful on me. She captures the essence of empathy–working together to achieve the greater good. It’s so much easier to feel connected to your coworkers at work. It’s as if you are all in this together and care about others’ feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

This is the foundation of a culture that values empathy. You will have a culture that encourages disengagement, fear, or resentment if it isn’t there. Which do you believe is the most successful?

Your business won’t survive without empathy.

The most successful businesses around the globe have many things in common: innovation, customer-centricity, and low staff turnover. While there are some mean people in successful companies, most of them have a culture that encourages cooperation. This is how new cultures emerge in the workplace.

As Dr. Castelloe taught us, cooperation is the foundation of empathy’s origins. You can work together to create new ideas and great customer experiences. Your company could be out of touch and sucky, which will quickly become apparent to your customers, and they won’t stay with you.

Loyalty is built by empathy, which every company wants. Loyal employees and customers are the keys to growth and sustainability. There is no secret to success. It’s all about caring about your customers and employees.

We owe our Ancestors gratitude for their decision to give a damn.

Our ancestors decided to come together millions of years ago. We wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t. There are many lessons to be learned from the ones who have gone before us.

You may not be saving the world, but you might be! Your business. You are solving a problem for customers. Empathy is essential if you are to solve problems. Empathy is the only thing that can replace it. Having an empathy deficit is a path to failure if you are self-centric.

We owe our ancestors an enormous thank you for realizing that working in a group is better than doing it alone. You can now convince your company to do this.

What do you think? Consider grabbing your copy of Mean Peoples Suck today and getting the bonus visual companion book. You can also check out our services to help you develop your culture. And I’d be happy to come present to your team about the power of empathy!

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