Much of today’s political chaos, at least as it related to one-on-one relationships, seems to be suffering from a lack of empathy.
It starts by just treating each other as humans, but even then people have a hard time understanding how someone else may have a contradictory viewpoint.
As an example, I recently saw a Facebook post from a friend that was very critical of Joe Biden by citing policy changes that he says caused “losing jobs, killing babies, and cheating in sports“. I’m not here to pick sides on any of those policies, but being able to at least see the other side is the first step toward understanding. Looking at those three:
- “losing jobs” seemed to be related to the closing of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The job loss is significant, weighed against continued reliance on fossil fuels and potential negative impacts on the environment.
- “killing babies” seemed to be related to abortion, where the definition of “babies” is a constant source of debate, as well as the rights of women.
- “cheating in sports” seemed to be related to allowing transgender athletes to compete in college sports, which doesn’t factor in what rights those people should have relating to athletics.
It’s easy to say that “losing jobs” is a bad thing, which it is by itself, but I’ve yet to find anyone that wants jobs to go away — there is a counter-argument about whether some jobs should be lost for a greater good.
We’re usually the sympathetic hero
In the book Thanks for the Feedback, they state:
In any experience, we are usually the sympathetic hero of the story.
You’ve seen this play out in your own life.
- Someone was late to meet with you and it messed up your day.
- You were in a car accident.
- Rain canceled the baseball game that you were planning to go to.
It’s not hard to do, and we all do it. However, in many cases you should try to look past your “central” role in the story to see what really happened. Any situation likely involved a number of other people, each with as big a role as you.
Working hard to see situations or arguments from the other side can be very insightful. It doesn’t mean you need to agree with the other person, or not be disappointed that your friend was late to meet with you, but gaining insight into opposing viewpoints can be a wonderful (though challenging) thing to do.