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Resolving conflict with Jamie & Mr. Clubber – Empathy

By Alan Jeffrey, Cyrenians CRS Workshop Facilitator

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A friend of mine, only a few weeks ago looked at me like I was from another planet when I communicated to her that I didn’t know who Kim Kardashian was.

‘What do you mean you don’t know who she is?’ She cried, her arms gesticulating wildly in my direction.

‘Is she like a singer or something?’ I replied, wrongly by the way.

‘NO! She’s…she’s…she’s Kim Kardashian!’ erupted the not entirely enlightening response before adding ‘She’s everywhere! Don’t you watch TV?’

‘Not really…I just watch what I want on Netflix’

‘But she’s everywhere! I don’t even understand how you don’t know who she is!’

And here’s the thing. I really don’t know who Kim Kardashian is. And that’s perfectly understandable to me.

Kim Kardashian doesn’t exist in the bubble I’ve created for myself. In a world filled with curation and choice I carefully select news sources that speak to my political views, I block those on social media whose ideas differ from mine, I choose what I watch, what I listen to and what I read based on what I have liked in the past or recommended to me by a few trusted sources.

Geographically I live only a mile away from my friend. In reality, we live in completely different worlds.

No wonder we don’t understand each other.

And here’s what I didn’t do…

I didn’t say ‘Show me something this Kardashian lady has been in’.

I didn’t say ‘Help me understand why you think she’s so important’.

I didn’t say ‘Why don’t I share with you something I’m interested in’.

Instead I said ‘Sounds stupid’ and changed the subject.

How’s that for empathy?

About a year ago a team of talented volunteers and I created a video resource for young people that explored anger. It was well received, it was relatively easy to create (or more accurately put; enjoyable to create) and so it seemed perfectly obvious to everyone that we should do it again, this time focusing on empathy.

It turns out that empathy is really, really complicated.

I mean it sounds simple. Empathy describes putting yourself in the shoes of another right? I can do that! I mean I can do that when the other person is pretty much like me, and thinks basically like me and likes the same things I like. That’s easy! But it’s not exactly empathy is it? How do I even begin to understand people who think differently than me!?

I start by taking out my phone right now (right now as I write this obviously, not as your reading it), writing a text message to my friend and simply ask:

‘Hey, explain to me why you like Kim Kardashian’

‘Sometimes when I’ve had a really stressful day, it’s nice to imagine I have a glamourous life like her and other celebrities. It helps me unwind when things get tough’

Alright…

I can understand that

Watch Jamie and Mr Clubber in their brand new video all about empathy!

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