Empathy is being able to see another person’s point of view even if you have no specific frame of reference or similar experience. Unfortunately, most people do not have empathy because they just cannot put themselves in another person’s shoes unless they have direct experience. A great example of this is when Senator Rob Portman reversed his stance on gay marriage after learning about his own son being gay. Geez, only when his own life was affected by the ban on gay marriages did he see the light and understand. The world would be a much better place if everyone focused on empathy instead of their own egocentric point of view.
Empathy is being conscious and fully aware of the experiences of others! Here are some ways you can step outside of your own frame of reference and become more empathetic:
- Truly listen to what another person is saying – listening is not waiting for your turn to talk and tell your own opinion/story/experience. Listening is also not making judgments.
- Really think about your advice before you offer it to someone. Your own advice is much more about what YOU would do in situation.
- In fact, do not give advice or opinions unless the person directly asks for this information. Your advice and opinions are about YOU not the other person. It also demonstrates that you are NOT really listening.
- When creating things such as presentations, papers, books, movies… you must really understand your target audience. You must be able to put yourself in their shoes and view the experience through their eyes if you hope to make a difference.
- When experiencing an event such as a movie, play, sporting event… think about it from many different perspectives. Think about the perspective of a variety of people (blind, deaf, specific race or ethnicity, physically handicapped, dyslexic, ADHD, homosexual, old, young…). What might they think and feel? By being open to other perspectives you become less egocentric.
As a Dyslexic Dragonfly I am a very slow reader but I love to escape in books via audiobooks (ear-reading). One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is: “My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others.” So remember to take some time to think outside of yourself today to help make the world a better place. Let the focus be on empathy!