Introspection is out, and outrospection is in. Philosopher and author Roman Krznaric explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves. The RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to creating social progress and spreading world-changing ideas.
Roman Krznaric: I believe that empathy – the imaginative act of stepping into another person’s shoes and viewing the world from their perspective – is a radical tool for social change and should be a guiding light for the art of living. Over the past decade, I have become convinced that it has the power not only to transform individual lives, but to help tackle some of the great problems of our age, from wealth inequality to violent conflicts and climate change.
It is important to understand what empathy is and is not. If you see a homeless person living under a bridge you may feel sorry for him and give him some money as you pass by. That is pity or sympathy, not empathy. If, on the other hand, you make an effort to look at the world through his eyes, to consider what life is really like for him, and perhaps have a conversation that transforms him from a faceless stranger into a unique individual, then you are empathising.
For an overview of my ideas on empathy, have a look at this article on The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.
But the big question is this: What practical action should each of us take to create a more empathic world?
So here’s my easy 5 step guide to becoming an Empathic Revolutionary.
|2.READ THE BOOK
Every revolution needs a handbook and this is it. The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live reveals how to bring empathic practice into everyday life, drawing on inspiration from the panorama of human history. ‘A fascinating rattlebag of intelligent, stimulating essays.’ – Financial Times
|3.SHARE YOUR STORY
I’m collecting empathy stories from around the world (like this one) for a forthcoming book on the global empathy revolution. If you have a story from your own life of a memorable moment of empathy – or the lack of it – then I’d love to hear from you. Was there a conversation that overturned your prejudices about someone? Did you have an experience that gave you a searing insight into the lives of others? Were you ever on the receiving end of somebody else’s empathic blindspot?
Please send your story in 750 words or less to: info [at] romankrznaric [dot] com. Closing date December 31, 2012.
4.JOIN THE COMMUNITY
|5.DEEPEN YOUR THINKING
I’ve written a number of reports, essays and articles that delve into empathy from a range of angles – educational, political, artistic and philosophical. Here’s a selection of writings to chew over.
You Are Therefore I Am: How Empathy Education Can Create Social Change (free download)
This research report published by Oxfam argues why empathy needs to be taught in schools and how it should be done, and explores surprising options such as using babies as teachers in the classroom.
‘Beautifully written, thoughtful, scientific and humanistic. I really appreciated the big picture approach of this report.’ – Mary Gordon, founder of The Roots of Empathy education programme, Canada
Empathy and the Art of Living (free download)
This essay shows how developing empathy is the ultimate art form for the twenty-first century and the key to creating a revolution of human relationships. Mahatma Gandhi and other great empathic adventurers will be your guides. This is probably the best introduction to my ideas on empathy.
‘Empathy is imaginatively and practically explored in Empathy and the Art of Living, an essay by the ever thoughtful and surprising Roman Krznaric.’ – Mark Vernon, author ofThe Philosophy of Friendship
Empathy and Climate Change: Proposals for a Revolution of Human Relationships (free download)
An essay arguing that the huge gap between knowledge and action on climate change can be explained by our failure to empathise both with future generations and those being affected by global warming today in developing countries. An updated version appears in the bookFuture Ethics. Watch a six-minute video presentation of the essay.
Empathy with the Enemy (small payment required)
This essay, published in The Pedestrian journal, explores the necessity and challenges of empathising with those whose views we might disagree with or who are ‘enemies’ in some way. Why is it important to try to see the world through the eyes of those who have different political, religious or ethical views than our own?
Selected short articles on empathy
‘The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People’ – published by the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley.
‘Five ways to Expand Your Empathy’ – the most popular post from my Outrospection blog.
‘Time to Swap Introspection for Outrospection’ – on the art of empathy travel, from The Scotsman newspaper.
‘Empathy becomes a revolutionary force for change’ – Wired Magazine 2013 Trends
‘Empathy’ – from The Observer’s Ideas for Modern Living series.