In an amazing book called Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, the author refers to the skill of Empathic Accuracy as a key to building strong relationships, of any nature. Hence developing stronger “social intelligence“.

In short empathic accuracy is the ability to “read” signals correctly. It’s picking up vibes, such as someone’s moods and feelings (the empathy part), but more importantly understanding why the other person is feeling like that (the accuracy part). This is the crucial determinant that builds on the traditional notion of empathy. In the very least its the ability to not misunderstand that reading.

This is a very rare skill and indeed it’s absence leads to deterioration of relationships via misunderstandings and therefore formulation of wrong impressions of another’s behaviour, or, worse still, their character.

Someone may for example be in a pensive mood, their minds drifting away mid conversation to something that’s subconsciously preoccupying them. A very common occurrence, and one I know very intimately myself. The other person will, most of often, be quick to jump to one of many conclusions, most of them negative such as: he’s not interested in what I’m saying, he’s bored, he’s angry with me etc.

In the western cultures we pay to little attention to this super important notion of empathic accuracy. We tend to live very selfish, ego-centric and ego-driven driven lives. I was fascinated to learn that in the Japanese culture where empathy is much more embedded in their core value system there’s even a word for this: Amae.

In short Amae is this kind of intuitive understanding of others needs and feelings, and a more accurate appreciation of their possible sources.

We could all benefit from more amae. I know I certainly could.

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