(CNN)Having empathy for other people goes a long way in fostering strong relationships. In fact, empathy is a fundamental building block for conflict resolution and understanding and bonding with others.
Empathy is both a trait and a skill. Here's how to strengthen it
Psychological science has defined the term in many ways, but simply, it's "the ability to perceive accurately what another person is feeling," said Jennifer Lerner, a psychological scientist and the Thornton F. Bradshaw professor of public policy, decision science and management at the Harvard Kennedy School in Massachusetts. Her research examines human judgment and decision-making.
We need empathy because it motivates us to take action when we see that people are suffering, said Sarah Konrath, an associate professor of philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
"Across time and situations, humans need empathic skills and empathy in order to make societal cooperation possible," said Lerner, also a former chief decision scientist for the US Navy. "As Charles Darwin [observed in 1872], the ability to recognize 'the expression of emotion in man and animals' plays a profound role in all societies, including nonhuman primate societies."