Empathy is the new black: From my in-box

One of my readers, Evon, wrote me a few days ago to stress the importance of empathy in these difficult times. Indeed.

During our interminable presidential election we’ve had enough screaming at each other to last a lifetime. And the post-election period is no better, as the basest instincts of some people have come to the fore while others are justifiably scared. And still others absolutely bewildered by all of it.

Evon suggested this TED Talk, Chris Anderson’s interview with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

The thing he said that pulled me up short was:

“Each moral community is a matrix of consensual hallucination.”

He says each side sees a different set of threats looming for the country. And both sides are right. In fact,

“There are a lot of threats to the country and each side is constitutionally incapable of seeing them all.”

Let’s make empathy chic

We’re not going to change people’s minds. But we can try to empathize with them. And give them an opportunity to empathize with us.

Now, I’m not advocating a mass sing-in of Kumbaya. You can’t empathize with someone when they have their foot on your neck. And it’s an objective fact that the president-elect has appointed some hard-line dudes (so far, just dudes) to work with and advise him. And those dudes have ideologies I find personally scary.

So I doubt I’m going to develop empathy with newly appointed Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon. But I had a productive conversation with my cousin yesterday. She actually heard me, which was a start.

Anyway, listen to the interview and form your own opinions. Comment if you like. With empathy, please.