Before we understand something, we must first experience it.
Please discuss. How does this play out in life?
I’ll start us out. We’ve become a nation of the opinionated. We see a post on Facebook or Instagram or a tweet and feel impelled to offer our take on the topic. We read or listen to new coverage and want to discuss it with others.
Unfortunately, all too often our sharing takes the form of posturing to proclaim judgment. Far too frequently, we offer opinions and proposed solutions for problems we don’t personally understand. We presume to know more about the issue than those living it. This tendency can make us pompous and bigoted.
As a nation, it seems we’ve lost some of our ability to empathize. We pre-judge others and situations based on the information we’re willing to hear. Don’t trouble us with relevant details, please, especially if they don’t support our preconceived notions. Our desire to truly understand others is trumped by our need to feel righteous. Our unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue with others of differing beliefs, backgrounds, or life experiences further reinforces the divide in understanding. We’re stuck in polarization.
Today’s message reminds me to talk less, give fewer opinions, and listen more. If I wish to share, I can offer my personal experience without implying it is similar to/better than/worse than another’s. When I am willing to hear what another has to relate, believing that they will represent their experience honestly (as I would attempt to represent my own), then I can begin to approach true understanding. Trust and empathy are key.
How about you? What part does empathy play in your discussions with those whose opinions differ?