WHY EMPATHY?

EVERYONE CAN RELATE TO THE NEED TO BELONG.

In my experience, when I have been the most successful shifting someone's perspective, it has come not from facts and stats, but from vulnerability and personal storytelling.  When I have communicated how it has felt to be called a racial slur, or to get bad service when someone right next to me got superior service from the same person, I've found people view the same facts differently.

 

I believe people understood and connected with the feeling of isolation or "othering" in these stories, even if they could not relate to or understand racial discrimination.  That belief solidified in my mind after reading the research The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments.  In it, researchers sought to change views on transgender people by building empathy with cisgender people.  Canvassers asked these participants to think of times when they were judged by others and to connect those feelings to how transgender people feel when they are judged.  

 

Three days after these conversations with canvassers, researchers saw a 10-point increase relative to the control group in their positive feelings about transgender people, on a scale of 100.  Three months after these conversations, the 10-point increase persisted.   

 

In one conversation, focused on feelings rather than facts, people's views not only changed but persisted well after the conversation.  Empathy is powerful.  And we think it has impact.

©2018 by Em|PACT Strategies