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How to Have More Empathy

People do stupid things in this world.

 

People do bad things in this world.

 

Yet everyone believes they are a good person!

 

Except of course for people who are lonely, some (but definitely not all) criminals, people who have low self esteem and the odd other exception to the rule like people with mental disabilities perhaps. But by and large, everyone believes they are a good person and everyone believes they are in the right.

 

One might say that it’s because of the ego or the development of our personalities through childhood as we develop a sense of what is “mine and yours” and our need to “own and control”. Or maybe because of self preservation as it can be very hard to live without a mission and beliefs and values to guide us.

 

So then when someone who believes they are a good person does something you believe to be dumb, annoying, rude, inconsiderate, not very nice, greedy or anything along those lines, how do you engage with these people when you also believe you are right and they are vastly wrong? How do you entertain the idea they may be in the right when they do something that is so fundamentally different to who you are? (Or just not hate life because a tyrant is in control of our country – no I’m not pointing fingers! I am talking hypothetically about any country!)

 

Without this turning in to a psychology lecture, on the hows, whys and therefores of people doing what they do (or making it even deeper and turning it into a philosophical conversation!) I’m going to keep it real simple and just give you some of the questions that I ask myself for “when people do dumb shit” in the world. For when people do things that don’t make sense to you or your friends and how to remain, well not even hopeful as it’s more than that, but how to develop a balanced “okay-ness” with your current situation whatever it may be.

 

You see the world works in mysterious ways. As anyone who has done any work on themselves knows, there is also perfect vision in the hindsight of seeing the value of what was previously a bad day. Now no longer associated with it, you can see the important lesson you never would have received from life without the negative experience.

 

This is how the world works: through the thousands of different people all living and striving for something, and especially abrading against each other through, conversations, businesses, families and even fights and wars as they come together to make life happen.

 

What if you could have that experience of hindsight right now, DURING the experience, instead of hours or days later?

 

How do you ensure that the conversations don’t turn into arguments, fights, wars and other “bad stuff” in the process? Read below…

 

For best results I suggest that next time you get triggered by a person, noticing your emotions (probably anger, frustration, overwhelm,  using these questions in order either while meditating or in your journal entries.
For those who have already some experience with personal development and consider themselves largely self aware, the questions can be engaged with more on a level just to be pondered while doing other activities.

 

For now as a practice, think back to the last time you got annoyed at a neighbour, a politician (or more broadly government or the government of another country) or “that religion”, “those people” or “that corporation”. Think what it was they did and what you felt. Then also remember what you were thinking and what thoughts were running through your head at the time.

 

A couple of the questions are yes/no questions and the others require a short list of at least 3 answers (but aim for five or more things) to be sure you get it.

 

  • Am I having the same experience as this person is?
  • Can I possibly know everything that this person knows?
  • Am I in 100% control of anything right now?
  • Can I possibly be in control of everything?

 

  • Is this person doing the best they can with what they have?
  •  How do you know this to be true?
  • What does this person value that makes them believe they are a good person and are doing the right thing?
  • What experiences or events (either positive or negative) made this person value these things?

 

  • Why will this current event ultimately be a good thing for me, them and everyone?
  • What is one thing that I can do to show myself that I am responsible?
  • What is one gift that I can give to the world right now?

I’ll give you a hint: some of these questions are actually leading questions! 😉 Some are very open ended and meant for pondering deeply. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which ones point to ultimate truths.

 

Sit with it.

 

I’d love to hear where you mind…and your heart…goes with this.

 

2 thoughts on “How to Have More Empathy

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