Imagine a holiday occurring every week, rathter than just once a year and with its arrival, it brings with it an opportunity for harmonious living. Guess what folks, TODAY is that day. Dubbed World Empathy Day, by corporate speaker and workshop facilitator Rick Goodfriend (great name for someone who teaches compassionate communication). it shows up on the calendar each Wednesday and reflects the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communiation (NVC) In his book entitled: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, he defines empathy as “a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.” Goodfriend is also a teacher of NVC.
How to do that, you ponder, since it seems at times that we are hardwired to only view the world and the people in it through our own narrow lens of how it all impacts on us? I call it ‘center of the Universe-itis’ that often has me in its snarly grip. Everything from petty annoyances of my son leaving dishes in the sink when it would be SOOO much easier for him to simply put them in the dishwasher, to outright outrage over what I see in the media about the state of the planet. It’s all a reflection of my thoughts anyway, h0w I choose to interact with those events. I look at people whose political beliefs differ from my own and wonder how they could hold those views. I witness people doing hateful and destructive things (sometimes in the name of religion) and can’t imagine if they have a conscience. I’m sure that there are some who look at me and the ways in which I choose to live my own life and can’t fathom my choices either. As my father would have said, “Different strokes for different folks.”
I have recently become fascinated with the construct of mirror neurons; the system in the brain that recognizes common threads between us. It may explain why when someone falls and gets injured, we flinch and it may show us how people get so emotionally charged over a sporting event even when they are not on the field. It may also hold clues to the concept of empathy and why there is a seeming disconnect for people with sociopathic tendencies. It also explains a phenom that I have seen on Facebook. When people put forth a request for prayers, responses come whirling in from all corners of the world, even if those responding have never layed eyes on those who are asking. We really are all so connected.
It also helps to know, that at our core, regardless of upbringing, beliefs and doctrine, we all share needs for love, understanding, a sense of belonging, a purpose, peace of mind, security, freedom and ability to express ourselves. Perhaps our verbal and non-verbal expression of those needs isn’t always the most graceful and that is where a healthy dose of empathy comes in handy. Imagine a world in which we really could ‘walk a mile in someone elses’ moccasins’.
http://youtu.be/OCiLxRCBf40 Get Together by Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mirror-neurons.html NOVA Mirror Neurons
www.emapthyday.com World Empathy Day website
www.walkyourtalk.org Rick Goodfriend
www.nonviolentcommunication.com NVC website