“Only by examining our personal biases can we truly grow as artists; only by cultivating empathy can we truly grow as people.”
― Jen Knox
Can we cultivate empathy without examining our personal bias? I’ve come to believe over the last several years that to ensure better and clearer communication, one must clear out the communication room specifically in this case our minds. The clearer we become about our particular perceptual filters, the more we can understand what others say to us and the more we can pick up their emotional states and being.
What does empathy mean tho. I have met many people who consider themselves empathic and they pride themselves on how well they can understand and truly feel the pain of those whom they see as victims. However that is the easy side of empathy. Much more difficult is empathizing with those we see as being the perpetrators or victimizers. Until we can do that, then we have not fully learned empathy.
When I was a junior in high school students in Iran took over the American embassy there and held fifty four Americans hostage for over a year. I remember in Current Events Class standing down all the other kids as I debated on the side of the Iranian students. A few months previously my family hosted a young persian couple who were staying in the states for awhile and they gave me an understanding of the grievances that Iranians would have with American imperialism. They felt that they had suffered under the Shah (who was backed by America). I tried hard to understand both sides and was surprised at how many people seemed to think it was one-sided
I keep running into situations that are similar. People able to empathize with people who feel the way they do without even attempting to understand the other. Occupy Wall Street might be more effective for instance if the protestors tried to see life from the point of view of the bankers, definitely vice versa. By understanding, i do not mean condone or agree with, i mean simply trying to put yourself in another’s head space.
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