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Empathy and Respect

By the Kennebec River in Maine, Craig explains empathy and respect and why they are so important when we have conversations; especially hard conversations with our adversaries.

In the video Craig references a Ted Talk by Robb Willer called How to Have Better Political Conversations.

Here’s what Craig says in the video:

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here, on the banks of the Kennebec river here in Bath, Maine. I want to talk a little about empathy and respect, and how important it is to bring these values into our conversations with each other. Especially hard conversations with our adversaries.

I just listened to a TED Talk by a guy named Robb Willer. I am going to give you the address right along with this video. Robb is a social psychologist. And he provides us some evidence about our growing political divide in this country and that it’s not a good thing.

He also provides some really practical tips and evidence based tips on how to persuade your political adversary: appeal to their morality. Because as Robb explains, moral values underlie political identity.

But towards the end of the video he emphasizes empathy and respect. And the idea is that no matter what your objective is in having a conversation with somebody else, whether it’s to persuade, or something else, at the very least you will have a better chance of meeting your objective if you can convey empathy and respect.

What do those things mean?

Empathy is putting yourself in other person’s shoes. It’s not like sympathy, feeling sorry for them. It’s a little different from compassion, it’s not wanting to fix the problem for them. It is really understanding what it’s like for them. It is having a sense of what they’re feeling.

When we have a conversation with somebody else and we really try to understand what they are feeling, there are some practical benefits. For one, it is likely to minimize misunderstanding and assumption and gives me a much better chance of making a good decision based on the conversation, of saying helpful things back, based on what I’ve learned in the conversation.

Respect is a simple admiration for somebody. It’s an attitude of, you know, even though maybe  there are some things about you that I don’t like, or there are some things that you’ve said that I don’t like, I respect you – if for no other reason, you are a human being engaged in a conversation with me. If somebody gets the sense that I don’t respect them, they are not going to be honest with me. They are not going to follow up on the conversation. They are not going to take me seriously.

We need to have conversations across the political divide and for all kinds of reasons. And I’m just here to say that we have a much better chance of those conversations being peaceful and productive if we bring into the conversation empathy and respect.

Okay, thanks for listening everybody! I hope you’re doin’ good out there.

One thought on “Empathy and Respect

  1. Your definition of respect is too simplistic. To respect someone you must first be willing to be empathetic to the needs of that person. Then ask yourself, “If I were in his/her shoes, what would I do?” Given the constraints he has would I do the same thing? If you can answer yes then you are respecting that individual. I may not agree with his/her actions but I understand them and would do nothing differently.

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