Tag Archives: Empathy

Nurturing Empathy in the US: Thank you, Karl Becker

Karl Becker. Picture credit: ABC News
Karl Becker. Picture credit: ABC News

Karl Becker, the last questioner at last night’s debate, reminded us (I hope) that what we are missing in today’s world, not only in our politics is empathy. If you did not see the debate, he is the one who asked Clinton and Trump to state just one thing they liked about each other.

There was no empathy on that debate stage, maybe the occasional stab at sympathy, but no empathy.

Trump and Clinton, Second presidential debate. ABC News is the author of the image.
Trump and Clinton, Second presidential debate. ABC News is the author of the image.
 
The world we are living in is missing an empathetic understanding of each other and our environment – nature-, and unless we start to seriously recapture our ability to empathize, we will be lost. That is what I absolutely have come to understand.
 
This hit home when I was in Ireland, where I experienced more empathy and kindness for each other and our environment. There was almost no homeless, no graffiti or trash is thrown about. People were courteous and helpful to each other, including strangers. If you smiled at someone on the street, they smiled back and the drivers … OMG … amazingly courteous. We were biking on some roads that allowed for 100 km (62 miles per hour) and these folks gave us room to ride, even when there was no shoulder. We were not honked at, cussed at, yelled at or made to feel like we did not belong. Sharing the road was a given. I experienced, time and again, courtesy and Empathy.
 
In Ireland, statue in Tralee
In Ireland, statue in Tralee

When I came back from Ireland, I felt lost and ashamed. How could we treat each other like this? Treat our living environment like a trash heap? Like others, I have become a bit callous because it is so hard to live opened up emotionally when I see and experience our world where “me, me, me, mine, and I” is all we promote. A daily experience where we tell each other what to do (because our way is right and your way is wrong), and we do not respect each others autonomy or cultural differences, and where we have NO respect for our environment. I have such anxiety that I simply want to move out to the country where I do not have to be inflicted with the continuous lack of common kindness, courtesy, the lack of empathy we encourage in our world.

 
We must change. We must, must, must change and Becker’s final question asks those who would lead us to better embody empathy. We need examples of what this means for our children, and our children’s children. We cannot give them a clean and well-ordered world, but we can give them an understanding of how humans, through empathy and care for each other, can fix our world because this is the first step and the most important step. 

A Marketing Reminder: Identification and Empathy

I saw this lovely short article on LinkedIn today by Sarah Nadava about Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.  Navigating the world of single motherhood,  Sandberg had some important realizations:

“But, to be fair- people are only generally good at understanding the world that they know and live in. They fight for the problems that they can see. And sometimes, people need to go through a struggle in order to really get it” (Sandberg as cited by Nadava).

As Nadav points out, for Sandberg, she could not empathize with the plight of single mothers and single motherhood and tell she was in the thick of it.

But for me, the takeaway is not necessarily about single motherhood, which is important, but about empathy. Our society is lacking a propensity toward empathy, and the fact that we can only recognize an issue when we are in the middle of it symbolizes a larger problem.

I see this missing empathy gene a great deal not only when I teach ethics (oh why can’t we teach ethics and philosophy in “K – 12” grades ??), but also when I am working with digitalSnip20160514_3 media marketing. The key for many of us in the business is to find a way to get our audiences to empathize with our point of view. We are seeking identification, as Kenneth Burke so brilliantly argued. As digital marketers, social media strategists, and content creators, we are not only looking to persuade people to buy this, or to join this gym but empathize with our point of view, to identify with what we have to offer. This identification requires the nurturing of empathy.

So this question is this: how can we better encourage and reintroduce empathy into the populace?