Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Does making the world a better place require empathy?
Yes! Absolutely. But how does one become more empathetic? How could someone grow beyond self-centeredness toward empathy while avoiding cynicism?
Confession: empathy is not something that comes natrually to me. I'm more like Spock - a thinker, not a feeler. I have a hard enough time understanding my own feelings, let alone the feelings of another. I've tried hard since high school to solve this but still struggle with it sometimes.
The best advice I've heard about becoming more empathetic came from author Andre Dubus III. I got the opportunity to hear him share a few years back at a conference in Boston. His advice to grow our empathy: read novels. In fact, he said that he thought murder would cease to exist if everyone read 1 novel per month. Since then, I've made sure I make time to read novels. I don't make it to 1 per month very often but I have noticed that the act of reading them does help my empathy grow. To understand the story, I need to put myself in the shoes of the characters in the story. It's really a great exercise with no downside that I can see.
Read any good novels lately? Comment and share. I'm always looking for recommendations and I bet others are too. My latest read was The Artful, an unexpected orphan story.
Have more thoughts on empathy? Share those too. I can use all the advice I can get. :-)