Empathy Learning To Listen And Understand Others

2220 words - 9 pages

Empathy is an important part of the human experience. People want to be heard and understood, even if their viewpoints differ from those of another person. There was a time when families engaged each other in dialogue. Thoughts, ideas, and beliefs were shared face to face, without being concerned that judgment was being passed. We live in a world today that has access to information in the single click of a computer mouse. Hidden behind a computer monitor we can lose the ability to communicate with other human beings. Sometimes that anonymity makes us bolder in our conversations and less concerned about the opinions and views of others. Does the opinion of someone else really matter? Do we really care what other people think? Is the way in which we view another person skewed when we fail to exercise empathy? Our willingness to listen and understand the thoughts of another person enriches our life and makes us better people. Learning to empathize is the key to understanding. Without empathy as a part of our communication skill set our thinking will be short sided and narrow.
Experts say that our brains are wired to connect. Author Daniel Coleman in the book entitled Social Intelligence The New Science of Human Relationships writes, "Neuroscience has discovered that our brains very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person"(Coleman pg.4). The social part of our brain is what controls how we will react to the actions of another, whether it be in a positive or negative way. Even in the most intense situations the "brain-to-brain linkup" can occur. An example of this can be found in the experience of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hughes during the second invasion of Iraq. The soldiers under Lieutenant Colonel Hughes' command were tasked with the assignment to setup distribution of supplies to the Iraqi people. As is common in that country all activities are coordinated thru the local mosque. The people of the town looked at the presence of the soldiers as a threat to the spiritual leaders of the town. A large crowd gathered with the intent to protect their leaders. As a natural empathetic connection to the situation Lt. Colonel Hughes reacted to the situation in a positive manner and created an instant understanding with the mob and thus defused an otherwise volatile situation. Hughes used three actions to immediately build a relationship. He ordered his men to kneel on one knee. Then point their weapons to the ground and finally the most disarming of all the gestures "smile"(Coleman prologue). Instantly the demeanor of the crowd changed and an otherwise tense situation became an opportunity for understanding and dialogue. The actions on both sides happened instantly without rehearsal. The pathways in our brains to empathize are there naturally and when properly nurtured can turn people into understanding listeners.

Consider the fact that empathy is a natural...

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