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No Tone, No Intent, No Emotion?

 

We’re spending increasing time in front of our devices in a world of no tone and no intent. As a result, we’re finding it difficult to interpret and process the emotions behind our online interactions. We don’t have the advantage of seeing nuances in the other person’s body language, we can’t stare into his eyes, and hear his audible breath to understand his emotional state.

To top it, our social landscape now doesn’t just have a grandma, or a friendly neighbor. We are now surrounded by thousands of online bullies, and enthusiastic keyboard warriors. Most people engage in this form of online activism because it’s easy, non-committal and comes at no particular personal cost.

The dark side of the internet is becoming violent and graphic thanks to fake screen names and masked IP addresses. Worst of all, Big Tech is enabling such behavior. It’s running it’s machinery on a concept called the BUMMER method. It works on acquiring our attention by giving attention to the most obnoxious and unpleasant people on the internet. The word for it is pretty intuitive. It’s called Asshole Supremacy.

 

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What is Empathy?

 

Empathy is how we treat absolute strangers. It is our ability to put ourselves in the situations that others are going through.

When we communicate face to face with others, the mirror neurons in our brains help us deal with the other person’s facial expressions and cues that their body is sending. As our brain interprets this data, our levels of dopamine rise when we hear something nice in what they’re relaying to us. Similarly, there is a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol, when we hear about trauma related events.

This is how we connect. This is how we build out social currency, by being understanding and diplomatic about others emotions and feelings. This is how we find common ground, create rapport and build social networks in real life.

 

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Empathy To Nurture Enduring Relationships: 

 

Empathy is the single most factor that determines what kind of a contributing human, leader and adults we’ll be. What is Empathy? Empathy is how we treat absolute strangers. It is our ability to put ourselves in the situations that others are going through. Empathy is the path that we can find common ground in our shared understanding of our collective grief.

More than ever before, social and emotional learning – taking perspective, self-awareness, appreciating similarities and differences in others – in addition to academic learning is more relevant now in the digital age where distractions and addictions are just a click, swipe and a hashtag away.

We’ve to ask our children how they would treat other people, why we have rules and what being respectful entails. We’ve to teach them the importance of respecting those that love them unconditionally. Fostering meaningful conversations and dialogue to see the other point of view is critical.

 

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How Can You Develop Empathy?

 

By constantly walking in others’ shoes. Let’s imagine those parents who’re looking for their kids in a school which has just been affected by a mass shooting. Do you really have to share their other worldly views or beliefs to experience their unbearable angst?

Yes, empathy is determined by physical distance and personal connection. But, it is also a learned skill. And, it needs to be experienced, not taught. Empathy which is our awareness of what others are feeling and thinking, can in turn become the ability to influence a wide range of people.

The fastest way to develop empathy is by observing, being ourselves, and becoming an active listener. Because, our complete presence fuels empathy. It lays the foundation for a deeper understanding, comprehension and sensitivity to our surroundings.

In the end, empathy helps us better navigate the social world we live in. It helps us understand how your friend is feeling after her husband left her, how your child is feeling after sitting alone during lunch and how your grandmother is living her daily life now at the age of 82.

 

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Courage, Shame And Empathy:

 

A prerequisite to our empathy is courage. The courage to embrace our feelings and emotions. And to understand that we all have duties towards others just as much we have rights for ourselves. And having the courage to accept our faults and work on corrective outcomes that resulted in justifying our beliefs at the cost of others.

Shame, on the other hand, is a confusing and painful emotion caused by rejection in our most vulnerable times. The solution to shame is empathy; it is understanding our own perspective or another person’s view without judgment.

 

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A Humane Future For Our Digital World:

 

The point is, in our mad rush to build sentient (self-aware) robots, we’re losing our human edge. While humanity is in the throes of technology, robots will overtake us as soon as they learn how to empathize. We’ll lose the battle, if we don’t mend our ways with digital detox and digital minimalism.

In the end, our life is simply an exercise in how often we choose to display our empathy. Who knows what our future holds for us? Robots might take our legs out for a walk in the woods for us, find our misplaced keys which chips attached to our forgetful brains and also call our mothers using our simulated voices.

But, when your mother answers the phone call, will the robot pick up the nuances and subtleties in her tone enough to understand that she is feeling lonely?

 

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