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3 Reasons Why Reading Novels Teach Us Empathy

There are studies that show that reading literature, in particular Novels, improve our ‘theory of mind’ and empathy, and thus understanding how people think and the ability to interpret or experience other’s emotions or feelings. It is no mystery that successful people read a lot, which is why we should promote reading under children as well to create our future leaders. It will teach them from an early age how to have compassion for others and how to deal with their own emotions, strengthening their emotional intelligence, a key skillset required by great leaders.

Empathy is at the core of emotional intelligence and is seen as a vital life skill to develop and sustain meaningful relationships.  But how can you gain this knowledge by simply reading a fictional book?

  1. You gain valuable insights into different reasoning and problem solving skills. If you ‘live’ inside the book you are reading, it gives you time to look at each scenario you are presented with and helps you wrestle with the problems together with what your favourite characters are faced with. It creates a better understanding which is likely to enable smoother change within us.
  2. You might lack the language to communicate a feeling or emotion, which can cause problems. People don’t know how to express what they feel through words. Reading a lot gives you greater vocabulary to firstly communicate your feelings, but secondly also understand the different ways in which people use words or language to communication what they feel.  The more you read the better your vocabulary. That’s a known fact.
  3. To be able to relate to a character and put yourself in their shoes, increase your empathy levels because suddenly you understand the emotion behind the action. If you are interested in a specific fictitious character, it gives you the platform where you connect with the character because you can associate yourself with them. It helps you feel like you are not alone in various types of situations, and can sometimes give you sound advice on how to handle such a situation, even though you might not realize it.

Fiction is fabricated…not real. But in a way it communicates certain legitimacies about relationships, problems, change, diversity and the human psyche. It opens up a world where you can safely experience emotions and later on apply in reality. Reading relieves stress and helps you escape. Unconsciously you discover reasoning and new ways of thinking. It opens up your mind and your heart.

Emotional intelligence is a fundamental skillset every leader needs, and empathy is at the core.