Empathy Before Education: Responding to the Past

When someone comes to us in distress and begins to describe an event that we remember or experienced differently, our first impulse is often to correct the other person. After all, we may reason, if the other person just got the story right, she would no longer feel distress, right? So we set about to educate, to correct the facts or interpretations that we know are different from her version….

Putting empathy before education can make a world of difference in our daily interactions. It makes it possible to receive everyone with consideration. The phrase “empathy before education” can serve as a handy reminder to take the time to really hear the other person before we hurry to offer our own interpretations. Then we can shift the focus away from the past—even if it’s the very recent past—in order to make connecting agreements in the present and future.

by Ike Lasater with Julie Stiles