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An Exercise in Empathy
This month is all about gaining an emotional understanding of the impact of bias. When you take a moment to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine how it might feel to be on the receiving end of discrimination, it switches on your empathy. It’s different than thinking about bias from an outsiders point of view. Empathy is fundamental for humans and many animals; we have a set of mirror neurons in the brain dedicated to sharing emotional situations, helping us bond and relate to each other. Emotional experiences also stay with us longer. They are stored differently in the brain and can be experienced quite strongly months or even years later.
Try swapping places in your mind with someone who might be experiencing discrimination. This is NOT about feeling sorry for people. It’s about gaining a deeper, emotional understanding of individuals on the receiving end of bias.
Switch on your empathy. When you understand the emotional impact bias has on regular people, it connects you to an individual rather than a group or stereotype. This helps your brain create a more complex picture of a person, beyond their skin color or culture. This piece by the NY Times is a poignant reminder of how individuals are affected.
WNYC talks to 12 year olds about the issue of race. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine having to deal with experiences like this every day. The impact of bias causes anxiety and limits potential. Seeing and hearing from individuals versus talking about statistics switches on our empathy. This helps our brain create a more complex
picture of people and stops it relying on simplistic stereotypes.
Empathy is NOT a Mushy Soft Skill
Once you connect emotionally with others, you can start to imagine how the world might look from their perspective.
People who suffer most from discrimination and bias experience the world differently; self-confidence can be dented more easily, they experience more anxiety and fear. They often feel isolated and undervalued. Living this way requires a tough exterior that is often misunderstood. Can you take a moment to imagine the world from a different perspective? When you change how you see people, you change how you treat people.
The role of lip balm in fighting bias.
This lip balm has two jobs. Job No. 1 is to keep your lips hydrated and soft using premium, all natural ingredients. Job No. 2 is to remind you, at each use, to switch on your empathy, one of the skills necessary for un-doing the habit of unintentional bias. We hope you enjoy your soft lips and your softening heart.
Put yourself in this young, talented, Jazz musicians’ shoes. Do you think you would respond the same way? We admire his gracious, optimistic approach to life, and like Christian, we believe we have a “profound opportunity” to advance our culture to a place where everyone is welcome.
Imagine this is you. You are attending Smith College and have a job teaching high schoolers chemistry for the summer STEM program. You are taking a lunch break, eating and reading quietly on a couch in the break room.
Someone called the police because they thought you “looked out of place.” An officer arrives and asks what you’re doing. Even though you aren’t doing anything, suddenly you are scared…what if the situation escalates, why are you being questioned for sitting around reading? You try to answer nicely and not act defensively. Luckily, things don’t get out of hand, but you are disappointed and feel abused and unsafe. This happened to Oumou Kanoute. Imagine this happened to you often, put yourself in her shoes, can you empathize with how she might have felt?