Given the deep political divide in this country, how will we ever even begin to show proper empathy and respect?

The political divide in this country cuts deeply, into how we view politics, where we live, who we want our kids to marry, and even where we go to church.

Who can we ever trust, and why should we anyway?

How can we as pastors, leaders, politicians, even every day ordinary citizens, ever hope to make a greater effort to cultivate genuine empathy and respect for our opponents and “reframe” our positions in terms of the values that are meaningful to others?

In what I think is an extraordinarily thoughtful 12-minute TED talk, Stanford sociology professor Robb Willer gives some simple, clear and really profound ways we can have better political conversations, centering the discussion on showing empathy and respect.  And yes, Willer’s advice goes way beyond the political.

It is easy for me to see negative behaviors in others. But do I see them in myself — a lack of empathy, an inability to understand and respect the values of others, a tendency to frame issues according to my values, interests and desires?

Also, I really like attorney and conflict specialist Ken Sande’s essay on 7 Steps to Empathy.

Both Professor Willer’s TED Talk and attorney Sande’s 7 Steps to Empathy, remind me of the part of St. Francis’s famous prayer where he prays, “O divine master, help me not so much to seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.”  Indeed!

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