Empathy

Crying While Watching Morning Joe

I don’t usually cry watching Morning Joe. Well, that’s not quite true. The horrifying images of the inhumane and immoral treatment of immigrants at our borders have certainly brought me to tears. But yesterday, I cried about something good, something inspiring, the story Mike Barnicle told about Joe Biden’s generous outpouring of emotional support for his brother Pete when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. When Biden learned about what Pete was going through, he flew to Boston to spend the day with him. After that, he called him every single week until his death. Biden is a busy guy, but this is only one of many stories folks have told about his taking time to support and console others, especially those dealing with adversity and loss. Rather than folding his tent after the devastating loss of his first wife and infant daughter in an auto accident and more recently, the death of his son Beau, Biden has devoted his life to public service. He is one tough, resilient guy, a genuine survivor of unspeakable tragedy. But he also demonstrates and models empathy, a quality so sorely lacking in many of our current political leaders. To me, this is a big deal. Character counts. Resilience matters, toughness matters, and empathy really matters. Our children are watching. The world is watching. But the importance of character, especially empathy, goes way beyond the impression we’re leaving around the world or with our kids. Without the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s [...]

By |2019-07-17T11:59:59-04:00July 17th, 2019|Empathy|0 Comments

Empathy: Essential for Writing… and Life

My professional writing skills students had to pretend to be a swim club manager who was writing a “bad news” letter to a long time member. The recently widowed member was distraught over the loss (probably theft) of her diamond engagement ring while she was swimming. She wanted the club to reimburse her, even though the contract she’d signed made it clear the club was not responsible for the theft or loss of any personal items (thus, the “bad news”). I asked my students to start their letters with what’s called a “nod”—a statement that both the writer and recipient are likely to agree with that will build rapport. Many students did fine on this. They talked about how upsetting it is to lose something of great sentimental and financial value.  I felt they were able to put themselves in the member’s shoes and imagine what she must be going through. They intuitively understood she needed to have her feelings acknowledged.   Others, however, started their letters with statements such as how healthy and beneficial swimming was as exercise. Under other circumstances, this might well be something the widow would agree with. But after someone had most likely snatched her treasured ring shortly after she’d lost her spouse? I don’t think so. I’m not suggesting these students, who are lovely people, lack empathy. They’re in a hurry to get this assignment done, probably late at night after a long shift at work. I asked them to start with a statement [...]

By |2018-02-18T09:56:26-04:00February 18th, 2018|Empathy|0 Comments