The Age of Empathy

The Age of Empathy

Self-absorption … kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. When we focus on others, our world expands. Our problems drift to the periphery of the mind and seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action. ~ Daniel Goleman

I’ve come to appreciate the profound gift of giving and receiving empathy, striving to understand and help each other.

This video by RSA Animates, and philosopher Roman Krznaric, got me thinking more about empathy. Roman’s perspective is that we are moving into a new era where empathy, and learning to experience life from others’ viewpoints, will allow us to revolutionize our human relationships, as well as social and political processes. The past century we’ve focused mainly on inner exploration as a way of learning about self. He suggests it’s time to move outward, exploring the views and values of others with empathy and curiosity.

This fits my personal experience of being tired of introspection and self-analysis. Yes, I’m more self-aware, but that hasn’t led to much action or created a life of meaning, joy or contribution as I crave to do. Similarly, my week of digital retreat didn’t bring any new insights, but conversations with friends did, including the realization that I need to be more connected. In case you missed it, here is my post on spontaneity that came from spending time connecting with friends.

And on the receiving end, when friends, family or fellow bloggers listen deeply and understand me, it’s like a breath of fresh air to my soul. I feel myself relax, no more defending or justifying. I am able to let go and be. Sometimes a wave of tingles or peace washes over me. I can assure you, being heard and understood are profound gifts to receive or give.empathy, gift, connection

On a related note, we are hard wired to connect socially with one another. There is a growing body of research showing how our brains are designed to connect and thrive on social connection. I still need to remind myself to reach out to people and life. It is far too easy for me to pull back into myself and my world of introspection. I like time alone to reflect and recharge, but clearly I’ve taken it too far.

May 2016 be a year of reaching out, exploring, playing and connecting. I agree with Roman that it’s time for taking our relationships to the next level with empathy. I know my relationships will transform if I put more time and energy into listening, understanding and connecting other people.

Once we understand another, the next key piece is action to create change. From those connections built with empathy, we can create a life of meaning and contribution. But it requires action based on that understanding and connection.

Let’s open our hearts to others, seeking to understand, connect and act for a better world.

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28 thoughts on “The Age of Empathy

  1. This is the Only way forward Brad.. as we reach out to others and embrace them within our compassion and empathy… It is time for us to re-connect and really ‘Listen’ to each other… Not with our heads, but with our hearts… For most part we have forgotten to listen to our hearts.. as we have been conditioned by the needs of our heads…
    The materialistic world is starting to disintegrate piece by piece.. As it falls apart.. we are being given the opportunity of rebuilding it again.. It is going to take a lot of LOVE and Empathy.. But we are picking up those pieces as each one of us is being challenged..

    Loved your post Brad.. 🙂 Enjoy your week..
    Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully said, remarkably felt, Brad!! I especially like “being heard and understood are profound gifts to receive or give!” Honestly, I think that is what makes our relationships here on WP so special…we all obviously have something to say and then we see that someone out there heard it…and even quite possibly understood it!! Perfect! I did decide that one of the things I wanted be better at this year is “listening and hearing”…some people listen…but don’t hear. I want to do both better. Here’s to a year that we concentrate on connections, Brad…the kind that give us love and light ❤

    Like

  3. I, too, found Roman’s video in the past week and was very much inspired by his idea of an Empathy Museum. Since raising the funds for something like that seems really intimidating, I thought about an online “museum” that helps people understand what it’s like to be directly affected by various issues (sea level rising, poverty, lack of access to education or clean water, being a sweat shop worker, etc). I am looking for smart, knowledgeable people who might be interested in bringing this about…

    Liked by 1 person

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