Empathy for Self-Gain: Expectations

Line graph entitled: ‘My Own Expectations’. One red line on graph. Key reads: red: my expectations; blue: reality- not on this chart, pay attention to other people. Brain Embryos logo

Could developing my empathy skills help improve my own experience of life?

Experiments to test whether co-opting our natural, self-interested motivations can gain mutual benefit and emotional growth.

What are your thoughts on this idea?

Other posts in this series:

  1. Empathy for Self-Gain: Conflict

Does this feel familiar?

“People and situations consistently don’t match what I expect and I often feel surprised, disappointed, frustrated or disorientated by unexpected consequences.

I frequently feel confused by people.”


I avoid a lot of things and miss opportunities because:

a) I don’t know why, or

b) I’ve noticed sometimes it’s when I have anxious feelings because I don’t trust my ability to predict and respond to people and situations.

Empathy Experiment

Be explicit with myself:

Paying attention to all my feelings, thoughts, and behaviour, what do I want, need, expect and think should happen in this situation?

Contrast with them:

What do their actions, words, behaviour and choices suggest about what’s the same and what’s different? What are they showing? What don’t I know right now? What can I do to find out?

Share responsibility:

Having noticed suspected differences, how can I seek a balance between our needs? How might we discuss our expectations with each other without dismissing either one?

If you tried this, how did it work for you?

Or, maybe you already do something similar. Tell me, how do you use empathy to help develop more realistic expectations?

Other posts in this series:

  1. Empathy for Self-Gain: Conflict

12 thoughts on “Empathy for Self-Gain: Expectations

  1. In my experience empathy definetely improved my experience of life and relationships, allowing me to build deeper connections 🙂 But I also think that once should learn to set boundaries at the same time. When one is very empathic there is the risk that he takes on too many feelings of other people as his own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and for your comment 😊 That’s a very important point about over-empathy and boundaries, and I agree wholeheartedly. That’s why the skill of empathy seems to work best when developed with self-awareness skills to identify and validate our own needs and with learning complex communication skills to discuss mismatches in needs and expectations. Sometimes, of course, if we’re aware and validating our own needs with a sophisticated understanding of another we’ll more naturally recognise it’s a not a situation that will meet our needs and impose boundaries with kindness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Insightful read! Empathy truly is one of the more valuable skills. I don’t think you can have very healthy relationships if you’re incapable of empathy. I hope this post helps people cultivate better emotional awareness

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, a balance of empathy is vital for healthy relationships for ourselves and others. It’s definitely a complex process, but a skill that can be learned actively when someone’s willing and recognises there’s a need to work on this.


  3. Your ability to understand other people’s point of view and how they feel is very important. Showing concern and affection is just being human. However, I believe one should have limits too. Thanks for sharing this with us, it’s a must read for all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, and commenting! Limits are definitely important in how much we give. The term empathy is often used synonymously with the act of caring, but the mental skill of cognitive empathy is just estimating another’s perspective and experience. Each of us use that skill all the time without acting on it. On its own it’s just a mental process, but used to motivate our behaviour it can be helpful for care and also for recognising where limits are needed. A person who, for example, is unable to perceive and understand the signs that suggest someone else’s intentions might be hurtful wouldn’t be able to act upon realistic expectations in order to impose limits. Luckily, empathy is a skill that can be developed.


  4. I truly believe empathy can impact our lives positively.
    When we take the time to imagine how the other person felt or went through it can immediately change our feelings about the situation.
    Empathy offers a different perspective on every situation and what better way to truly understand something than looking at it from different angles?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for the comment! I agree, empathy is such a useful skill for understanding and making sense of the world generally. Not only for others’ benefit, but for ourselves too. We live in a world of people. Life remains pretty confusing if we don’t learn how to understand them.


  5. Thank you for the straight forward illustration. I think that empathy is often seen as a weakness, when in fact, it is a strength. I also believe that too many people have been taught entitlement, which sets their expectations so high that they are always disappointed. Empathy connects people.


  6. Yes indeed! Being empathic changed all relationships , with me and others. I can tolerate and like people better, and also be more patience, with others and myself. It is a game changer. Is also a quality that must be learned, practiced and be committed to. So, great idea to present all these questions in a form of experiment 🙂


  7. Great topic as always! I show empathy differently depending on the situation. Sometimes, I just listen to someone’s sad experience and just give that person a hug. Sometimes, when talking to someone in a depressed state, I would not show too much empathy to not agree to certain thoughts and send that person further down the negative spiral. Instead, I show empathy by proving the opposite like telling them that they are not alone in this and invite that person to go outside. I think it all depends on the mood and doing what’s right for the other person. I think empathy should be used thoughtfully by reading the situation, which I’m still learning. Thanks for this thought-provoking topic 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.