political empathy

Lately I have begun to fantasize about a different kind of discourse. What if, rather than learning to demonize people who hold different views, we learned how to picture them positively and empathize with them, even if we continued to believe they were wrong? If you think of politics as war this may sound like unilateral disarmament. But I wonder: How many people do the current tactics actually persuade anyway? When ordinary folks have been angered or humiliated, do they change their minds? Or do they go back to their partisan mentors to learn the counterarguments they should have used?..

Rather than prefabricated reasons to dismiss and vilify those we would like to change, we might enter the room with prefabricated reasons to empathize and understand. Mastering those tools might give us confidence to start and sustain the kinds of dialogue that change people rather than just defeat them.