Teaching Empathy to Adults

Maybe you’ve already heard of him?

Dubbed “One of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers” by The Observer this chap has 436 links to his name in the newspaper’s search function (as of June 10th, 2015 anyway). They LOVE this guy. He’s the author of ~

And now, having reviewed some of his impressive body of work on empathy and more, I’m a wholehearted fan as well.

  • Q:   So, who IS this guy?
  • A:   Roman Krznaric
  • Q:   Why the fuss?
  • A:   Well, with regard to the subject of empathy – understanding it, seeing the relevance of it, noticing the historical sweep of it, fostering it, and teaching it – Mr. Roman Krznaric (pronounced Kruz-Na-Ric) rules the turf. It makes no sense for me to reinvent this wheel. Instead I’m going to do two simple things here today.
  1. Summarize Krznaric’s six habits of highly empathic people and link it to the original article published in The Daily Good.
  2. Embed a 20 minute You Tube video of Roman giving this talk for those who prefer visuals.

1. Six Habits of Highly Empathic People – abbreviated.

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers “Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.”

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities “We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appreciating their individuality. HEPs challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them.”

Habit 3: Try another person’s life “So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up “There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist. One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again. But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.”

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change “We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change. Just think of the movements against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. As journalist Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,” doing all they could to get people to understand the very real suffering on the plantations and slave ships. Equally, the international trade union movement grew out of empathy between industrial workers united by their shared exploitation. The overwhelming public response to the Asian tsunami of 2004 emerged from a sense of empathic concern for the victims, whose plight was dramatically beamed into our homes on shaky video footage.”

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination “A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough. We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. A little of this “instrumental empathy” (sometimes known as “impact anthropology”) can go a long way.”

If this whet your appetite for the full article, click → The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.

2. Six Habits of Highly Empathic People – the movie.

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

 SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

29 thoughts on “Teaching Empathy to Adults

  1. peggyjo617

    I so appreciate how much I learn every week, Gemma! Thanks for introducing my to this incredible man as well as empathetic strategies!

    Reply
  2. gemmautting Post author

    Thank you again for your support Peggy Jo. I’m thinking of talking with Roman to see how to host a Human Library here in Boise. I think we’ve got all the ingredients to make our town ‘Empathy Town”… We need to talk!

    Reply
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