RSA Animate: The Empathic Civilisation
The Power of Empathy- TED Talk
Empathic View of Human Nature Tagul

The Empathic View:

  • Empathic View: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing life from their perspective
  • Empathy vs Sympathy:
    • Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of anothe
    • Sympathy: feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune
  • Homo Empathicus: human values (morality); humans are called Homo Empathicus because we are able to empathize with others
  • “We are soft wired to experience another’s plight as if we are experiencing it ourselves” Jeremy Rifkin
  • We are not wired for aggression, violence, self-interest, and utilitarianism, but instead for sociability, attachment, companionship, and affection
  • Self awareness plays a role in empathy so that we know our own personal biases, values, desires, and concerns which may affect our interactions with others
  • “Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries, without them humanity will not survive” ~Dalai Lama

Mirror Neurons:


  • Mirror neurons: A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal or person acts and when they observe the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting
  • Mirror neurons
    • Allow humans to feel empathy because they allows us to feel what other people are feeling
    • Scientifically proves that empathy does exist and is part of human nature because mirror neurons are soft wired into humans

EMPATHY Acronym:


Created by psychiatrist Helen Riess about how we connect with people
  • Eye contact
  • Muscles of facial expression
  • Posture
  • Affect (scientific term for expressed emotions)
  • Tone of voice
  • Hearing the whole person (understanding the context in which other people live and keeping our curiosity open and not judge until you understand where that person is coming from)
  • Your response

Kinds of Empathy:


  • Cognitive Empathy: knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking
  • Emotional Empathy: physically feeling along with the other person, as though their emotions are contagious; depends largely on the mirror neuron system
  • Compassionate Empathy: not only understanding a person’s predicament and feel with them, but also are spontaneously moved to help if needed

6 Habits of Empathetic People:


  • Cultivate curiosity about strangers- curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own
  • Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities- challenge preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what we share with people rather than what divides us
  • Try another person’s life- expands empathy by gaining direct experience of another person's life, putting into practive the Native American proverb, "Walk a mile in another man's moccasins before you critisize him"
  • Listen hard and open up- listens and tries to grasp the emotional state and needs of others; empathy is a two-way street built upon mutual understanding. We also need to make ourselves vulnerable and open up to reveal our feelings in order to create a strong empathetic bond.
  • Inspire mass action and social change- empathy happens on the individual level, but also is a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change
  • Develop an ambitious imagination- thinking outside the box and seeing the perspectives of those who we usually think of as "enemies" (ex/ oil company CEOs in relation to global warming as a social and political issue)

Adherents of the Empathic View:


  • St. Francis of Assisi:
    • convinced a beggar outside of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome to exchange clothes with him while on a pilgrimage and spend the rest of the day in rags begging for alms. He then founded a religious order whose brothers worked for the poor and the lepers because he himself knew what it was like to be in that position
  • Beatrice Webb:
    • in the 1800s she was born into a wealthy family of well-off businessmen and politicians. However, while doing research into urban poverty, she donned a bedraggled skirt and buttonless boots to work in a textile factory in London. This experience opened her eyes to the workers’ side of the story and it inspired her to campaign for improved factory conditions and to support the cooperative and trade union agreements
  • George Orwell
    • came from a privileged background, went to Eton and was a colonial police in Burma and was disgusted at the brutality of colonialism which he witnessed first hand; he realized he knew very little about how people who lived on the social margin lived life. So, he dressed up as a tramp and walked around the streets of East London, which helped expand his moral universe and become a more compassionate person, but also cultivated his curiosity about strangers, which helped him cultivate new friendships, gather new perspectives for literary material, and overall enhanced his perspective on life
  • Gandhi:
    • in order for him to campaign for Indian independence from British rule, he knew he needed to experience what life was like for the poorest of people in the country. He wrapped himself in a loincloth, and he and his followers grew their own food, spun their own cloth and cleaned out the latrines (usually reserved for the Untouchables, or Dalit caste) for 13 years. This overall was an empathetic experience that taught Gandhi that not everyone has it easy, and it was because of this experience that he is so inspirational to us today