To Generate Change, You Need to Create Empathy

Want to know why some Trump voters still support him, even after he’s vowed to destroy programs that keep them afloat?

Want to know why some college students feel they need “safe places” on campus?

Want to know why addicts keep going back for more, overdose after overdose?

Here’s a clue: start with a little understanding.

This isn’t to say these people are right in what they do. Nor is it the start of a rant in favor of moral relativism. It’s a call to walk in another’s shoes, for only there do you begin to understand. And only then are we on ground where we can agree about something.

Differences remain. They always do, and they always should (who wants a world where everyone is the same?).

But it’s when we understand each other, find something in common, that we can find common goals and — in spite of differences — begin to work together for the things we share. And here’s the thing: when we begin to understand each other, most of the time we find that we are a lot more alike than different.

That’s the bigger picture, but any progress toward this comes day-to-day, in baby steps. They’re the tough ones. And they stand out when you see them, because they’re valiant and the hard work is obvious.

Here’s a perfect example: a subway seat in Mexico City designed to raise awareness about sexual harassment on public transit. It is a bit shocking, with a purpose: to change the perspective, especially men’s perspective, by changing the subject to the object and in that moment giving men just a bit of an understanding of what it’s like being the object.

And then, maybe then, they act a little differently next time.

Seat makers, this is a sign of intelligent life.