I have been reading the book “Persuasion; The Art of Influencing People” by James Borg and have been enjoying it.
This portion where he defines “empathy” and then provides examples resonated:
“Empathy is the ability to identify and understand the other person’s feeling, ideas and situation.”
It’s listening with your heart as well as your head. It’s the ability to read emotions in others. It’s being able to experience another person’s perspective. It’s the next best thing to the powers of ESP and reading minds.
As I read on, here is one part that struck me in thinking about empathy:
Now there are two ways that I am thinking about how I interpret this passage:
1. Is empathy truly about understanding people so, in turn, they can also better understand our point of view?
2. Is empathy about understanding people so we can find ways to persuade them to our point of view?
This is where I am struggling.
Too often, we think about empathy as a way to better understand what others want and then, in turn, try to convince them of our decision for their needs.
It is the idea of, “I appreciate you sharing your perspective, but now I am going to decide for you.”
Of course, as a parent, there are times when I do my best to understand my kids, and I make decisions based on what I think is best for them. Maybe that is empathy in some form.
Empathy is not only about understanding others but ensuring they have agency in the solutions being created.
Empathy should not only be about understanding voice but should often lead to a co-created action forward.
The most embraced solutions to any problem are ones where voice was not only heard and understood, but also acted upon.