Attended an empathy workshop by School of Thought on Friday, with the intention to learn some techniques, in understanding people with life stories vastly different from ours. How to break down the initial judgemental barrier when empathising with a person’s feelings and motivations.
What I eventually gained was a reminder that we are all not too different from each other, everyone is hustling through life, seeking happiness and fulfilment in their own little ways.
We started off with a blow-wind-blow icebreaker/ game, with more personal anecdotes instead of the usual superficial kinds. I liked how the littlest quirks could resonate with anyone else in the room, from flipping the pillow to the other side before sleeping because it’s colder, to feeling awkward when not wearing a watch outdoors.
We then set off in pairs, with the mission to talk to any stranger willing to open up to us on a Friday night. My new found partner, V, and I spoke to a trio from Brunei, on a short holiday while attending a wedding (of which the location was still kept secret from them).
While the conversation was about Basheer, number of vacation days and weekend getaways, it was enjoyable simply because it was just like any other conversation you would have with a friend. Yet these are people from completely different cultures, with completely different lives (two of them were art teachers, the other an engineer), of whom we would not have and will never cross paths ever again. How many people do we casually brush past on a daily basis, and how many do we never see in our lifetime?
Empathy starts with an understanding that no matter where we come from, we as humans fundamentally seek common goals, we have friends and family we care about, and we get by every other day with what we have.
When we establish that sense of connection through the simplest things, I guess it’s not too difficult to create a common ground devoid of judgement.