Last week, I shared a simple idea that emerged from a ChatGPT conversation:
“If each individual were to cultivate a consistent practice of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – it could potentially bring about a dramatic and transformative change in society.”
But it then it said a little more:
“Empathy has the power to bridge divides, promote understanding, and guide actions that contribute to the greater good.
“When people truly empathize with others, they become more inclined to work together, support equitable policies, and create a society that values the well-being and dignity of all its members.
“Empathy could foster compassion, inspire activism, and lead to a more just and harmonious world.”
Hmmm, who wouldn’t want that? So I dove deeper:
And one obvious truth emerged about human nature:
All human beings have two sides. One side is about self-interest and the other side is about empathy.
I asked ChatGPT to create a two-column chart with all the human qualities of each side of human nature – self interest and empathy.
Download that chart here. (no opt in)
Look at the chart. What may become very clear is that the two sides of our nature are essential both for our survival and for our thriving as human beings.
But I think it’s also obvious that the self-interest side has always been the dominant one.
And these days, we seem more out of balance than ever before. We are so divided about so many things and those differences are accelerated by social media and our current politics.
In fact, in many areas we are literally at each other’s throats.
So, how do we find balance? What can we do? Is their hope?
Well, of course, I asked my buddy, ChatGPT.
I asked what would have to shift for us to have more empathy. And I got a list of 15 things that we could do, from empathy training and open dialog to volunteerism and conflict resolution.
Then I asked what simple exercises or rituals we could do daily to increase our empathy factor. And again, lots of great ideas from mindful reflection to practicing non-judgement, from expressing gratitude to learning about different cultures.
All of these suggestions were great. But I think it would take multiple university courses to become proficient in all these practices!
And then I asked my final question: “What is just one thing anyone and everyone could do as a daily practice that would increase their empathy?”
And the answer was both simple and profound:
“Of all the ideas shared, one of the simplest and most powerful daily acts to increase empathy is practicing active listening.
“This involves giving your full attention when someone is speaking, genuinely seeking to understand their perspective, and refraining from interrupting or immediately offering your own opinions.
“By truly engaging with others and validating their feelings, you not only foster deeper connections but also develop a greater understanding of their experiences, which is at the core of empathy.”
Very simple, right? But not so easy to practice is it?