Is it easier to judge “those people” than “this person”?
In “The Secret To Increasing Your Empathy”, Soul Pancake explains our natural human inclination to relate more readily to individuals than groups. Inviting subjects to watch a short video on homelessness, the Soul Pancake team tests the various responses to one piece that presents the issue with statistics and data, and another piece that presents the story of one particular homeless man. The findings are clear that the personal story is far more relatable and moving than the more analytic and global analysis. Empathy, the filmmakers conclude, is more easily aroused by individual and personal stories.
If empathy is subject to these variables of generalization and personalization, then we can extrapolate that judgment is similarly so. It is indeed easier to judge a group than an individual, and it is common to misjudge an individual by classifying him/her as a member of a more impersonal group.
This type of gross generalization and reductive evaluation is rampant today as relationships combust and dissolve when people are characterized – or perhaps caricature-ized is more fitting – by their party affiliations and/or voting histories.
The obvious point to be gleaned is that rather than evaluating members of a group as a monolithic block, we are more likely to empathize with them if we can relate to them as individuals rather than members of something larger. It is easier to oppose ideas than human beings. And of course, it is easier to express opposition and aggression in absence than when we are face to face.
The simple key to restoring civility and integrity to our fractured public discourse is to humanize and individualize our “enemies,” to remember that each one of “those people” is just a person, just like you and me. That person may differ from me in his/her perspectives , opinions, and life experiences, but s/he believes that s/he is doing the right thing just as I do.
The answer is not in the din of the crowd. We will understand and resonate with one another only when we tune in to the voice of humanity that is expressed by every single individual.
Watch The Secret To Increasing Your Empathy here or by clicking the image above.