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Empathy doesn’t start with a reassuring “I’m like you.” On the contrary, empathy accepts friction. Colleagues may have profound disagreements, just like family members, neighbours, and friends.
Empathy is not about being conflict-averse — it’s noisy because people are. To be empathetic, we must be willing to get in there, own the conflict, and learn how to fight fair. It’s about full engagement, even when it is uncomfortable.
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Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else’s problem in the hopes of understanding, of bridging a gap. It helps us feel in community, not abandoned to anomic isolation. It helps us feel seen and known for who we are.
Sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the phrase anomie to describe a destabilized and destabilizing state when rules and rule givers lose legitimacy. It’s what we feel when we face a virus that plays by one set of rules, politicians who play by another, and a professional life that proceeds...
Empathy at the workplace is both rewarding and time-consuming to listen to other people without preconception. Business consultants sometimes suggest something that seems close enough: radical candor.
A continual round-robin of criticism and praise promises to dissolve the ...
You can’t put yourself into someone else’s situation if you have preconceptions about its contours. We’re trained to relate to others by expressing what we think we share with them: “Oh, you lost your job. I know how tough that is; I lost mine as well!”
It’s the opposite — the strategy of n...
Those who think that work is not the “place” for empathy miss the point. The empathy you receive at work makes you a better friend, partner, or parent. The empathy you receive at home makes you better able to listen at work. And there, empathic leadership makes room for intimacy and honesty, driv...
Empathy isn’t altruistic. It enlarges those who offer it and binds them to others. It fights anomie. If you’ve been heard, and the rules you’ve been asked to follow take your situation into account, you feel part of something larger than yourself.
Empathy implies that you will do the work necessary to comprehend not just the place the person is coming from but their problem. It’s a discipline of basic respect, both personal and civic. You have a stake in helping your neighbour make things better. You can’t get bored or turn away.
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