… a little more empathy
Sometimes I wonder if what we all need right now is little more empathy. Empathy for our neighbors, our friends, and our family. Empathy for people who don’t believe the same things we do, for people who want to do us harm, and for people who have lost hope. Heck, we could even use more empathy for ourselves.
What a complicated world we live in
We are connected to our world in a way that no other generation has been before. We have access to so much so quickly. So much so, that something can happen halfway around the world and the whole world can know about it only a few hours later.
This kind of connectedness can be great. It makes us feel like no matter how far apart we are from loved ones all we have to do is pick up a phone, or a computer, and we can literally have a face to face conversation. It can also help us through incredible times of grief, and allow us to celebrate in triumphant times of joy.
However, this same constant connectedness can bring about immense amounts of pain and suffering. We are always staring at our phones now. And even though we are communicating more with each other, we are often doing so through an intermediary (our devices). This lack of personalization has led to an increase in cyberbullying, hate speech, and groupthink because the emotional restraint that often comes about when we are dealing with another person is removed when you don’t have to look them in the eye. As a result, it’s easier to become radicalized in our viewpoints because we can seek out other like minded individuals to reaffirm our beliefs, creating a perpetual echo chamber.
But what if put our phones down and we stopped to listen? Really listen?
What if we tried to listen more than we speak? What if we tried to truly understand, rather than assume we already know the why of the situation? What if we gave everyone the empathy they deserve?
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that this would solve the world’s problems. Unfortunately, there will always be those who choose to be selfish rather than act for the greater good. But, I truly do believe that if we were all (and I do mean everyone — myself included) more empathetic people that we wouldn’t have as much political and social division in this world. Commercials that were meant to inspire wouldn’t be immediately followed up with #boycott[Fill in the blank]. Families and friends would still be on speaking terms. And the world would be a gentler and kinder place.
So what do you say? Want to give empathy a try? Who’s with me?
Resources and Articles about Teaching Empathy
- 4 Proven Strategies for Teaching Empathy – Help your students understand the perspectives of other people with these tried-and-tested methods. https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-proven-strategies-teaching-empathy-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers
- I Don’t Feel Your Pain: Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/threat-management/201303/i-dont-feel-your-pain-overcoming-roadblocks-empathy
- Children learn empathy growing up, but can we train adults to have more of it? http://theconversation.com/children-learn-empathy-growing-up-but-can-we-train-adults-to-have-more-of-it-68153
- Can you teach people to have empathy?