The ability to imagine what another person would think or feel is referred to as the theory of mind. It is this that helps us realize that another person's mind is distinct from our own. When six-year olds point out physical flaws they are simply responding to their own curiosity. They have no idea that this might hurt people. To realize the impact of these observations would require the ability to be in someone else's head.
A few years ago I decided to embark on a backpacking trip across Europe for two months. Towards the end of my travels, I found myself at the Sisteen Chapel in Rome, Italy. As I was standing there, enchanted by this insanely crazy masterpiece, I felt a soft whisper perk the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.
This was one of the anticipated birthdays you were looking forward to other than 16 where you could finally learn to drive. But sadly, it was not a milestone you would ever reach. I often wonder what you would be like as an adult in our ever changing world.= What would the future hold if you hadn't had that awful Thanksgiving weekend and that horrible experience you came home to tell me about. If you had been able to sleep better that weekend. If others had just left you alone.
Alzheimer's caregivers are amazingly successful at juggling all of the things necessary to meet the needs of their loved one, but each day they're simultaneously learning how to juggle the many emotions they experience. Anger, guilt, fear and frustration are just a few of the complex emotional balls they are trying so hard to keep in the air.
As a business writer, people often ask me what books they should read to become better leaders. For years, my answer has been the same: read good fiction. If you want to learn how people think and behave, read a novel, a short story, or a play. Think of how effective we could be as leaders if we used our understanding of people to better empathize with our employees, clients, and boards.
The Internet is without a doubt one of the greatest innovations of our time. It, along with social media, has allowed us to connect with loved ones and like-minded people. However, it has also created a climate where humiliation, trolling, and cyberbullying are as easy as standing on a virtual soap-box and snidely tapping a few keystrokes for the world to see. We each need to play our part in acting with empathy and compassion.
While for many the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, for others, they are dreading the oncoming festivities because they may mark the 1st, 5th or 50th season without a loved one. No matter what denomination they are or what holiday they celebrate, there is one common factor that binds all of them together: someone they loved is gone.
Last spring, I joined my daughter Journey's fifth grade class as a volunteer on her field trip. I had the pleasure of watching a classmate approach Journey who was taking photos of a museum exhibit. The classmate suggested she turn off the camera flash; he was concerned that it could trigger one of her seizures. I was overcome with pride and appreciation for the caring, supportive community we have created in partnership with the school administration.
Truth is, that wasn't normal by any means. As a society, our relationship with homeless people is simple; either you drop a coin or walk by. It's impossible to connect with people as people because we let ourselves get divided only by borders, but also by our occupations, social status, and other arbitrary self-imposed barriers.
Everyone should act as a leader to make a strong environment for their business. If you are reading this, you may be a smart leader that knows how to earn money and build long-term relationships with your clients. If you analyze the key behind this kind of success you will find there is a simple answer: empathy.
I know that many of us feel hurt when men in general are blamed for violence against women. And many of us have or do feel the need to exclaim, "not all men!" And its true, not all men hurt women. And some of us have been hurt by women. But I encourage, implore, beg and hope all men will consider, just consider, what it means to walk through the world with the privilege of being seen as a man.
For a Jewish, middle class, Montrealer, I've spent a lot of my life in the company of the Buddha. I have had an 18-year on-again, off-again relationship with the Buddha. He's been by my side during the ups and downs. I never practiced Buddhism, but I have been a student of the religion for half my life.
They often behave how they think they should, not how they really feel. This kind of pretense can include false modesty, politeness and courtesy... but also pompousness and extroversion. Narcissists surround themselves with sycophants and admirers. The flipside of this is that narcissists have incredible envy of other people's successes.
Life is an ongoing exercise in empathy. As a human being, your job should be constantly learning how to make your own way in this world while causing as little harm as possible. Which is why I'm ultimately baffled when people wonder aloud if they're supposed to look at everything critically and worry about its potential to harm others. Because yes, that is exactly what you are supposed to do.
The thought of teaching my son Emilio to say "I'm sorry" in an effort to build and develop more empathy never crossed my mind. That's the reality of raising children with non-verbal autism; their parents are concentrating on having eye contact with their child; they are working on communication skills so they can verbalize their basic needs like "I want water".