TED video: Sam Richards on “A radical experiment in empathy”

Dr. Sam Richards is gives a poignant talk about empathy and argues that empathy is the core of sociology. Throughout his talk, Dr. Richards presents a variety of photographs and asks his audience to image how they’d feel (anger, fear) or what they’d think if they were the people in those images. At times, the examples of people/situations he chooses for the audience to empathize with seem extreme and politically charged. However the point of his talk was clear—to empathize is to understand. Even if you don’t support someone’s actions, just stand for a moment in his/her shoes and try to relate to his/her situation.

If being empathic means to understand another point of view that is not your own, then using empathy to make decisions could potentially minimize the harm to those affected by the outcome of your decisions— just by considering the welfare of others during your decision process.

I’m a fan of these types of TED talks in which self-reflection is as important as the subject of the talk. I would consider myself a fairly empathic person—I consider how the outcome of my decisions would affect those directly involved. However, listening to the examples given in Dr. Richards’ talk made me wonder about picking and choosing when to be empathic. Does being truly empathic mean you’re empathic to everyone, regardless of the context? Regardless of defining how empathic one is, I think just applying empathy to our daily personal/professional lives will have a positive impact on society— making it a better place for everyone.

Watch Dr. Richard’s talk here: 

Source: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sam_richards_a_radical_experiment_in_empathy.html


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