Civility requires that we reduce the psychological distance between ourselves and others. We need to develop a sense of commonality with people who initially strike us as very different from ourselves. One important means of doing this is by cultivating empathy.
“Empathy” literally means “in-feeling” — it is to project myself into another person’s feelings so that I begin to understand what it is like to have his experiences. If I want to gain empathy for a neighbor who is consistently defensive and insulting, I can try to imagine what it is like to be torn by the hurts and fears that give rise to his antisocial behavior. In doing so I may find links between his inner life and my own; or
I may use my imagination to explore feeling
that I myself have never experienced directly.