Site powered by Weebly. Managed by iPage
Empathy is discovering and understanding the other person’s perspective, his needs and feelings to guide our actions. A revolutionary shift has taken place in postulating the nature of human nature. The old view that the human nature is basically bad and self-centered is being replaced by the research made by psychologists, sociologists, historians, evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists. Their research has shed a new light on the basic nature of human nature. We are also homo empathicus wired for empathy, social cooperation and mutual aid. We are social beings naturally evolved to take care of each other, just like our primate cousins.
We are primed for empathy by having strong attachment and bonding relationships with the care- taker in the first two years of life. The good news is that we can nurture empathy through out our lives. We can make empathy as an attitude and an important part of our daily life.
Research studies of empathic personalities have identified the following six characteristics of empathic persons:
1. They have genuine curiosity about strangers, persons out of their social circle. Such curiosity expands our empathy circle. They show an earnest interest to understand the world inside the mind of the other person.
2. They challenge their own preconceptions and prejudicial labels about people different from themselves. For example, “ Muslims are fundamentalists”; “ Homeless people are lazy and parasites”, “ The well-fare mom”. Have courage to chat with a stranger with a curious and open mind once a week. You will find a lot of commonalities between you and them-the same needs, the same aspirations and the same pains and sufferings. We discover humanness in people who apparently look so different from us.
3. They implement experiential empathy learning model. Peace core workers are a good example of such empathy learning. We may have information and bookish knowledge of people who are different from us. What is missing in our education is the experiential component of real and significant learning. We need to be reminded of John Dewey’s words of wisdom: “ All genuine education comes about through experience.”
4. Listen hard and attentively and open up. This is the radical art of listening. As Marshall Rosenberg says, “ Empathy is our ability to be present to what’s going on within the other person-the unique feelings and needs the person is experiencing in the very present moment.” We need to grasp their emotional state and needs at the present moment.
5. Inspire change on a personal and inter personal level, class -room level, home level and on a community level. We need to plant the seeds of empathy in our children and they will flower on a larger scale. Canada’s pioneering program Roots of Empathy is one of the most effective programs for teaching empathy to schoolchildren. Research shows the positive impact of this program on children’s social and emotional intelligence, decline in aggression and improving their academic learning.
6. They do not interrogate or examine people of differences. They show genuine curiosity to develop deep understanding and relationship. Such open- hearted communication and interaction helps them examine their own limitations, biases and preconceived notions. It opens avenues for both sides to learn from each other and grow within and between.