Of all the skills to focus on and develop, what makes empathy especially important?
Brené Brown said it best — “Empathy fuels connection.” In order to understand the practical value of connection, I want to highlight two particularly transformative types.
A deep connection occurs when we extend empathy to someone we already have a relationship with (perhaps an acquaintance, colleague, or friend).
For example, I got to know a group of Facebook friends on a much deeper level as we formed an empathic support group for long-term illness. Being surrounded by people who understood the struggles of ongoing health issues was often the lifeline we needed to keep fighting for our health.
An unlikely connection is made possible when we step into someone’s shoes who believes differently than us or is in a drastically different life situation than us (where we may not relate naturally).
Because I’m white and had a privileged upbringing, I don’t have the experiential understanding of what it’s like to fight prejudice as a person of color. But empathy enables me to connect with and learn from those who have and are fighting discrimination (like Willie Jackson).
Empathy expands my worldview and bridges the gap between disconnected worlds.