Empathy is not a passive emotion. While we are born with the potential for empathy, it must also not only be learned, but actively practiced to maintain the ability to understand and appreciate things from someone else’s perspective. It requires an open mind, a strong social trust, and engaging in meaningful conversations.
In this tumultuous time, it’s easy to wallow in divisiveness, to blame, bemoan, ridicule, and to vilify views that don’t align with our own. When fear and stress abound, there’s less opportunity for trust, compassion, and empathy. This leads to a cycle of conflict that causes suffering and stifles creativity.
A core tenet of our education program, Worldview Explorations, is that the journey from Me to We is a transformative process, one that takes awareness and action on our part. Empathy is a way of life. The more we can understand, share, and connect with others, the less “other” they become. The more we see ourselves in each other, the less fear and conflict we will have.
How do we do this? Here are three practices from Worldview Explorations you can incorporate into your daily life:
- Cultivate Self Awareness
- Practice mindfulness by placing attention on and intention in your thoughts and actions
- Engage in Deep Listening
- Keep an open heart and listen mindfully. When we put our prejudices and assumptions aside, we are free to hear what is truly being expressed and communicated.
- Practice Compassionate Curiosity
- Ask open-ended questions that allow for more discussion and understanding. Open-ended questions, like open-minds, allows conversation to flourish and ideas to grow.
It is essential to nurture a deep sense of empathy to increase happiness, innovation, and overall wellbeing. Try out this Empathy Test to see where you fall on the University of Cambridge’s EQ scale. Consider:, where in your daily life can you increase your empathy?
Mollie Robertson is a writer, curator, and project coordinator at IONS. Her background in international relations, extensive volunteer experience, and passion for noetic wisdom influences her work in evolving transformational education programs at the Institute.