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Blossom Your Awesome Podcast #70 The Power Of Empathy With Kristen Donnelly

by Sue Dhillon
September 29th 2022

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast #70 The Power Of Empathy With Kristen Donnelly

Kristen Donnelly (MSW, M.Div, PhD) is a TEDx speaker, international empathy educator, and researcher with two de... More

blossom, your awesome podcast episode number 70 today on the show, Kristin Donnelly is here with us. She is one of the good Doctors of Abby Research. She is a ted X Speaker international empathy educator and has spent more than two decades as a re researcher and she loves nothing more than helping people understand the beauty in difference and the power and inclusivity. I am so honored and delighted to have Kristen here with us. We are going to be talking about diversity equity inclusion and more. She's got so much wisdom and a lot of insights to share with us. Kristin thank you so much for being here. Welcome to the show. Oh, thank you for having me. So it's a delight. Oh I am so excited to have you here. So let's start with your background. How you got into this line of work?

Well that is a multifaceted question because in a way I've been doing it for over 30 years. My parents bought a company when I was 78 around there and its entire purpose, well not its entire purpose because we needed to make some money to keep the lights on. But it's real, it's mission was to provide no scale manufacturing jobs back to a area of philadelphia that had been historically under resourced and neglected and in doing that they set us off on a very specific course for the rest of our lives. My parents, my brother and myself so I've been part of that family business now for over 30 years. My brother and I now co own it, it's grown from one division to many, from one country to um being a multinational multifaceted network of companies and within that the mission statement has always been to impact lives and create wealth and wealth is holistic.

It's absolutely financial because like I said we need to keep the lights on and we all need to eat, but it's also emotional, psychosocial, spiritual, communal, it's living your fullest life on your own terms is kind of how we define it. And so as I went through my life, I enacted that mission statement in my own calling in various ways. I was a youth worker for a little while. I taught in universities, I was, I worked overseas, I did all sorts of things and then it came time to come back and join the family business for a absolute host of reasons. But I realized that the best way for me to live that mission statement to impact lives and create wealth was to create my own division within the network of companies. And so I did. So all of our companies are called Abby Something because the first company my dad bought was called the Abbey Color and Chemical. So I started Abby Research which is an empathy education firm that my best friend and I who are both phds in social science run together with our colleague Eleanor and we spend our days helping people understand themselves and others better so we can all ask more questions, make less assumptions and human on a different level.

So whereas the mission statement that we originally started with all the words are the same. The meaning has continued to get richer throughout my life as we've made it mean different things. Mm wow I love this Kristen So you know one of the things I teach is mindful communication and I know the power of asking questions so talk to us. Let's start there. Well yeah let's so during during lockdowns I'll say this my Aaron who is my best friend and um co conspirator in in all of this we were talking a little bit about like what is the very core of the thing that we want to be known for it. Market research conversations but more than anything it was the two of us really digging deep and doing what a lot of other people did during lockdowns. Getting rid of things that didn't bring us joy or work for us anymore. Or that we were only doing because we were supposed to be doing them And we took a really hard look at ourselves and we thought we realized that what we both really wanted to help people understand was that empathy is a world view and not something that you are born with empathy at its core is understanding.

It's seeking understanding, not condoning not agreeing not anything else just understanding And in order to get to understanding you have to ask questions because none of us are mind readers. We all make on the limited assumptions about both ourselves and other people. Our brains are chemically designed to keep us safe. So they run on stereotypes that we can overcome with conscious decisions. But if we don't, our brain just kind of categorizes people willy nilly to keep us both physically and emotionally safe. And in order to overcome that and deepen relationships and human on a different level and really enrich our lives and survive the perpetual dumpster fire. And maybe even thrive in it. We have to learn to investigate ourselves and others and the world around us. We've got to get curious and we have to learn where and how to ask those questions. Mm hmm. And now you know, so as you know, you know you do this for a living empathy is I love that you share that it can be learned and we're not just born with it.

You find that certain people just kind of innately seem more empathetic than others, right? But for were never taught this. So how do we kind of turn that corner? How do we make this a more kind of universal thing Or just in our own circle? You know? How do we teach other people to be more empathetic? Well, I think the first thing is to understand the terms. So we usually talk about being empath or things like that. People that can read other people's emotions and our research kind of throws a little bit of a side eye at that, that it might not be emotions that other people can read, but its energy or something else because emotions are were. So at the beginning of emotions research that most people still don't even know how to name their own emotion in the moment, or we may give the same emotion different labels because we're different people and language is flexible and so we'd like to remove emotions from the conversation around empathy at least until we get our heads around emotions a little bit more.

So really what we're talking about with empathy is is curiosity and we can train curiosity really easily because we, you know, train it out of students all the time. So we can train it into people. It's letting people chase that curiosity. It's creating environments in which you can ask questions without judgment. It's making tiny changes yourself. So where can you start for me the first as a social worker and as a social scientist, the first answer is always yourself. There is absolutely some facet of this planet, you want to know more about. It could be the cast of the real Housewives of potomac. I don't it could be nuclear physics, I don't care, but there is something that you want to know more about, learn more about it. That's the first step, do a google, read a book, find a documentary, ask an expert, listen to a podcast, go into a clubhouse room. We are living at a time in which there is unlimited information to quench our curiosity.

And the cool thing about the human nature is that the every time we and we get a question answered, If we're truly speaking curiosity and encouraging it and cultivating it, we have 94 more questions. I always tell our students that the best research projects leave you with more questions than answers because you've uncovered new depths of possibility of understanding the world. So the first thing that you can do is pick a thing you're curious about and chase it for a little while and then see where it takes you. This isn't a grand grandiose. You have to rearrange your whole life right now. It's tiny disciplined, intentional steps to cultivate curiosity in your own existence. Mm I love that. And now for people who are not, you know, judging anyone here. But you know, some people tend to be a little more self centered, self absorbed. How do we get them curious about other people?

Like how do we get them having those deeper, more empathetic exchanges? Well, I'm a big fan of the theory that no one changes unless they want to, but everyone changes through stories and relationships. So the best thing that you can do with these people is be in relationship with them and force them to start to ask questions. I've got a couple acquaintances and some extended family members that are really terrible at asking questions and what I've realized is a couple of things. One they're very used to expecting social media to give them all their information about me and two, they think our lives are so different. They don't even know what to ask. And so I've learned to offer information. So they are talking about their kids and I don't have kids and I'm not having kids. And that's often a place where a lot of women especially like kind of lose the ability to talk to me. They don't know how to make small talk with somebody who's not a mother. And so I'll offer an anecdote about a niece or a nephew or I will ask them a question that then gets them talking about something and I can say, oh my gosh, that's a little bit like me too, or that's a really different response than I have had.

And I kind of hand hold them into curiosity in a certain way by demonstrating the power that curiosity can have. Now at the end of the day, we are only responsible for ourselves and I know enough about social impact theory and the way that humans work that the more curious you are, you will inspire curiosity in people around you and you will keep this chain going. You are only ever responsible for your own self. Now, if you're a parent listening to this, there are lots of ways to spark curiosity in your kids, an employer, a professor, if you are in a position of leadership or authority over anyone, there's lots of tactics to do that. But just like joe Schmo like you're annoyed at the person in the, in the cash register line and front of you let that go. But if you're in a relationship with somebody where you can spark that curiosity, you know, it's, it depends on your relationship with them. If you're a parent, like it's a great idea to get like one of the things I tell people to do is get the universal snack box where a different country shows up on your doorstep every month and you eat foods from that country.

Kids are curious feed that curiosity just don't shut it down. I know hearing why is so exhausting. But there's ways to not kill their curiosity but also not um get so exhausted. You can't function as a parent anymore. And teachers and employers can be the same thing. You can spark curiosity and empathy in your day to day life. Mm Okay, that was awesome. Now you know kristen so talk to us a little bit more about empathy and getting people, you know, beyond that kind of really uh just curious about certain things. But in a more feeling way is there do you have some practical guidance there where you know, I love now that we're turning this corner with being able to kind of show vulnerability a little more and especially for men, right? I think it's so amazing. But for people who are guarded and don't want to share on that level because I find that, you know, true connection comes when we're having those like heartfelt exchanges.

Right? So how do we kind of lean or help guide people in that to that space? It's a great question. And again, I would say it starts with yourself and it starts with a position of non judgment. So a lot of people say, I really want to know people better, but then they'll run into someone or a relationship with someone and they'll be listening and that person says something that they find like abhorrent and you can see it on their face. Um, and they don't know how to react to that really. You know, they don't know how to react. And if people feel judged, they shut down. So for example, let's say that, you know, in the United States right now, we've got a couple really like intense conversations happening. We've got climate change, we've got gun control. We've got reproductive justice. And we've got christian nationalism are kind of the, the hottest things that are all over your, your notification apps in some way. Covid a little bit less. So, but that certainly was a lot more emotional and a lot more intense last year. So let's say you're talking with somebody and it's, it's one of those good conversations where you're like, okay, I'm willing to get a little bit vulnerable here and let's see if we can really tear, you know, strip back some layers of the onion and that person says that they absolutely believe that anyone who owns a gun is evil and you have a handgun in your truck or you come from a absolute long line of hunters and it's a cultural value in your family.

Do you think, like, how are you going to feel in that moment? Most of us are just gonna like shut down completely, not bring it up or if we bring it up, it's gonna be really competitive and it's not going to be a productive relationship or a conversation. So there's a couple things we can do right there. one we say, you know, we train ourselves and get brave and just kind of say, well, you know, I own a gun and I like to think I'm not evil. Can I ask why you think that? Are you willing to talk about this with me? That's a response. But the most likely response is to just change the subject and shut down completely or maybe even agree in that moment because you're so uncomfortable. So for the person who's made that statement, that's that's something that we can teach ourselves train ourselves to say in nonjudgmental ways. Like, I think everyone that owns a gun as evil is very, very judgmental. Instead. You could say, I cannot personally identify with a desire to own a gun. Mhm I don't know, I don't know that doesn't make any sense to me.

And so it's difficult for me to engage with this and I don't know always how to, how to talk about this topic. Well then our person with the gun could say, well I own a gun like and I can tell you exactly why I do and you're, you're coming into the conversation with with a bit of a spirit of openness and the understanding the base level, understanding that the way that you human is not the only valid way you are not the only definition of being a person and neither is the person in front of you innate to both of you is that you are both human people who deserve dignity and respect and have inherent worth therefore as a person. And I found again, research and personal experience that if you can hold that that person in front of you is just as valid of a humanity as view. The conversations can get a little bit more intense and productive at the same time without potentially being painful.

Now, what I just said takes can take decades of training for some folks can take lots of therapy but it's possible and I see it all the time that if you enter into a relationship believing that the person in front of you as a person regardless of their opinions or their world views or their behaviors. We can learn a lot about each other and we can muddle through together just a little bit easier. Yes, I love that Kristin. That is just so true. And I just love how you put that. So, you know, tell us about in your findings. What do you find when you're kind of working with people helping them make the shift? What is? And I'm, I know it's different for everybody, right? But is there kind of a commonality there with where people decide to shift and say, okay, I'm gonna ask, I'm going to become more curious or I'm going to become a better listener. I want to step out of this.

Where is there a certain place that that shift happens? Is there something that triggers that? Well, usually when you're coming to me, you've already made that shift and you're finding us because you've made it. Um, and you want, you want to kind of, or you've started to, and I'll say a lot of the last for a lot of people, it's their kids. Um, and like my kid has come out as non binary. I don't know what that means. Can you help me? Or it's usually situational, I own a business and somebody in my business is demanding gender neutral bathrooms and I don't think it's a big deal, but they really do and they're causing a stink. Can you help me? I, my kid is dating somebody of a completely different ethnicity or, and I don't know what to do with that or how to be welcoming and I don't want to screw it up. And I don't, I don't know how to, you know, I don't know what to do with my hands, essentially. It's usually that you've been put in relationship with somebody who challenges you, Whether that is through the choice of someone you love, your own personal choice or your employment environment.

You've been, you've been exposed to difference. And then you can choose to chase that difference and treat it as curiosity and and figure out how to do it with it or you can shut it down. And for a lot of years, the thing that we preach to people was to shut down that curiosity. It's not your business. You don't need to to do any of that. You don't need to know everybody is the same. We're all colorblind. We just kept trying to flatten everybody into caricatures of themselves. And I think in the last couple of years we've realized that we can't do that anymore. That if somebody is different, they're not going to shut up about it and they shouldn't have to. So let's talk about the ways in which that difference manifests or why it is different or what can enrich my life in as I will talk about the evils of social media forever. But people are a little bit more curious than they've been before as the whole since the invention of Tiktok and you're looking at someone's life for maybe hours and it's someone you've never thought about before.

Club. This is the same way you can sit and listen to first person accounts of the war in Ukraine from both Russian citizens and Ukrainian citizens, we no longer have to settle for the narratives we've been fed. We can seek out other narratives in a really powerful way and and by having that power It allows us to once again understand that like, I don't know, I'm in, I was in development work for a while and I still dabble, I work with some nonprofits and like in the 80s and 90s, the way to raise money was to put starving Children on your mailers. Like that was how you raised money. And we called it poverty porn because you just made someone feel guilty for what they had and they were to check. You still see this in, you know, or abused animal. You know, you see in the joke of the old Sarah McLachlan commercials in the United States, you know, my name is Sarah McLachlan and I'm here to ruin your day and remind you that animals are abused.

What we know now in development work in fundraising is that people are not interested in two dimensional representations of, quote unquote the poor. They want to help and partner with people. They want to know the hope they want to know the difference. They don't want to hear about how terrible someone's life is. They know that we all know that there's an equity we all like, we all know what the people that you're getting money from want to know is how they can be a part of empowering that person to make different life choices or to have a different life circumstance. So we have, so we start with this person as a person, not a postcard. And let's go from there. And so if I'm seeing it in in that realm, we're just we're kind of seeing it everywhere and slowly. And it is a major generational shift as well, because millennials are much more statistically likely to believe that difference is a good thing than baby boomers are. And as power changes in companies and in society goes down the generations, every generation is more diverse and and then the generation before it, and we can choose to make mean that that every generation is more inclusive.

We haven't necessarily done that, but we can make that choice. And in today's climate, I feel like a lot of xers, millennials and gen z are trying to shift that to like how do we do inclusivity? How do we take this diversity that we have that we've been flattening for decades. How do we instead embrace it and make it equitable and inclusive. So that's a really long winded answer to your question. I hope it made sense. But I think that would be my thing is when you encounter difference and it reminds you um that your way of humanity is not the only valid one. Mm I love that. That was such a great answer. Kristen. So thank you for that. Now. You know, inclusivity. Like let's talk about this for what is that initial approach with somebody who's just very close minded. You know, if there's someone out there listening right now who has someone that they have to present a difference too. And that person is just like so not receptive.

My guess is that you have something in common anyway. So and then you get to decide because the other thing that I think really shocks people is when I tell them like you don't you can choose to not have relationship with people that you have empathy for. I can understand Vladimir Putin, I can have empathy for him. I can understand why this war is so important, why he needs this land back and still think that that is the wrong action. It is poor leadership at best. It is damaging and destructive at worst. And I want no part of his agenda. Those two things can be true at once. So let's say you're talking with somebody and you are somebody who deeply believes in the efficacy and importance of the Covid vaccine and you are in relationship with somebody, perhaps you're even married to them who believes the Covid vaccine is a vast conspiracy that the government is now using to track us. My guess is that, I mean, that's a huge difference.

That's pretty intense. My guess is that you might still both really like Star wars or you really agree that reproductive rights are a human, right? Or you really agree that your kids pretty great. The instinct online after 2020 to cut everyone out of your life who disagrees with you, I think was shortsighted. There's a difference between disagreement and toxicity. Absolutely draw boundaries around toxicity. If somebody is if your parents are dead naming you or they are or you have a partner who refuses to engage with a part of you that is core to you, um, your gender, your sexuality, your race, what have you? It might be appropriate for for you to walk away. And that's where difference becomes toxicity. But we mixed up those a lot. So let's say you still want to be in a relationship with this person who believes so differently with you with vaccines. It's pretty easy at that point. Then you just say we're never talking about this. I understand why you believe what you believe.

I think you're wrong. You can you understand why I believe what I believe. Okay, we're not talking about this anymore because we can't maintain relationship and just endlessly debate. So we're gonna draw this this little circle around it. We're not gonna talk about it and I will still love you in a million other ways. People do it all the time. Sometimes they do it with hot button political issues. Sometimes they do it with this is a fight we had 10 years ago that we're never talking about again. Or I know you hate my family, but I'm not walking away and we can't do anything about it. So I'm drawing a circle around it and we're never talking about it again. That may not work for you. That probably works for some other people. But the first instinct does not have to be cut everybody out of your life that disagrees with you. You can try some some baby steps in between those things first. So if you're, if you're in relationship with someone right now who just will not see your point of view, That's hard. That's really hard. It sucks you have a couple of choices. One you can never bring that up again to you can ask some really honest questions and say like, hey, emotions aside, I want to know why you believe what you believe or you can just say that's this piece of this person.

I don't like very much, but I love a lot of the rest of them. So we're gonna keep this going or you can say you know what that is so fundamental to who I am and how I see the world, I can't be in a relationship with them. And you can start to draw boundaries and back away. But that's a lot of that's a lot of how do you feel, how does it impact your life, the pragmatism of it? What does it look like? How is the other person who is the other person? But there's a lot of wiggle room that you have as if you feel comfortable with that. Mm hmm. Yes. That is awesome. And now I mean kristen you and I both know that you know, there's a a space for okay, yes, we're not going to talk about this. Let's go ahead and continue to get along and agree on what we agree on. However I believe. And I'm pretty sure you believe that ultimately I mean the ultimate would be to get to a place where we can talk about it powerfully and accept one another's viewpoint rather than just being dismissive of it, right?

For sure. And that's possible. I think in in really deep and true relationships. Um, but it takes a lot of work and it's not a linear thing. So like it could be really good in one and for a year and then something happens and it's not good again, but like for example, my dad and I have very different political beliefs. This is not uncommon, especially among boomers and millennials very different political beliefs and he really, really struggles to not see mine as childish and invalid. I think he still does to be honest, um, that I'm short sighted that I'm altruistic, that I'm, you know, all these kind of things and that I don't fully understand my own vote or my own choices. Now about every seven months we can have a really good conversation about it and I can explain to him like I read this bill. This is how I believe on it. This is how I'm voting. And he goes, okay, I can see that. Okay, that makes sense. I'm just asking that you pay that you, that you listen to me absolutely. I'm always listening to you. But just because I don't act on what you've said doesn't mean I'm not listening.

Fair point. Okay. Good. Okay. And then It goes back to other things because he's 72 and that's how brains work. But I always know that that like I guess this is how the cards are played in a certain way. Like this is what's going to happen. This is the pattern of behavior. Now with my mother, We have had incredibly intense conversations. Should we agree we believe very different things on some stuff. And I would say I have a couple other other friends that are like this, especially around sexuality, gender identity and reproductive rights and what has gotten my, my mom and I in particular to this place is that when she doesn't understand why I believe something she asks me and when I don't fully understand why she believes something I ask her and sometimes I'll ask her questions like, hey, if I showed up on your doorstep in this state of being, would that be hard for you even though you love me so much?

And she has to get honest with herself and say, yeah, it would be hard. That would be hard for me. We would work through it and we would get through it, but it would be hard. And so because she has honored me with her honesty in that way and I have honored her with mine. We can keep having these really hard conversations because neither one of us at any point in time is seeking to make the other person agree with us. We're simply seeking to be heard and understood and that sometimes is a key difference. I've got so many colleagues and relatives and total strangers who you're in a conversation with them. And I'm sure you're the same way Sue is like, you're in a conversation, you're like, oh, you're just trying to win. Okay, well if they're trying to win, like I'm not gonna show up to that conversation because I'm not particularly interested in winning or losing. But you can tell when someone is actually trying to figure this out and that's when we get vulnerable and we say this is my truth and hey, let's chase this and let's figure it out. So in a way, yeah, the hope is totally that we always get to that thing.

That place where we're really figuring it out. But I would also say there are some people you're never gonna get there with or you're gonna get there with once every seven months and like that's okay too, because that's humans. So the best thing that you can do is try to always get there with yourself and then you're ready for whatever circumstance your conversation partner shows up in. Mm I love that. That was really great Kristen. Now, um you know, let me ask you for as far as inclusivity goes, if we've got like just a scenario here, a few people who kind of all need to get along or you know, be inclusive. One is resistant to our resistant whatever. But we, we have to get along who, who does what and what happens? Well, gosh, the first thing we do is talk about what inclusivity means. So which actually usually means that we've got to talk about diversity. So, and this is where I get on a little bit of a soapbox.

This was my first ted X talk. But we have been talking about diversity so badly that we have screwed ourselves into eternity. So we usually, especially the United States and the end europe use the word diversity to be shorthand for race, Sex or gender. We're not talking and in race, we're just talking about black people and white people when we talk about racial diversity. We're not talking usually excuse me, We talk about racial diversity, we are not usually actually talking about all of the races. We are not talking about the fullness of the human experience when we use diversity. Often we're using it as this like interchangeable shorthand. The problem is every room you're in is diverse. Every relationship you're in is diverse because every human being is diverse in and of themselves. We all have so many things that make us up. We are all so many things all at once that everything is diverse.

So in that room where someone is resistance to inclusivity, my first question would be what inclusivity are you resistant to and why if they're an old white guy and they really don't want to hear about? We need to hire a black woman. I'll sit with that person and say, okay, talk to me about why. And I'll ask everyone maybe ask everybody else to leave the room because they don't know how to be honest in front of their coworkers. Why why is this a problem for you? We'll talk through it all. The best thing that you can always do is just try to get to the root of the issue, which usually is somebody feeling not heard misunderstood or ignored, realistic. Equal rights are not pie someone else getting more does not mean that you get less, but it feels that way and it's a feeling not a fact. And I am a big believer that when we're talking about how humans work together, we operate in facts. And so I usually call a spade a spade and say, right, let's get these big emotions out of the room. Why is this so scary? I'm not scared.

Okay then why are you so mad? Why is this the problem? I'm just trying to understand. Help me understand why this is so hard for you. Most of the time when you say inclusivity, it also feels too big for people. No one knows what that means. So break it down. Hey guys, you know what we realize that our office while it's a D A compliant is not like really welcoming to people who operate in wheelchairs. So we wanna make sure that we're we are inclusive to wheelchair users. So we're gonna be widening your cubicles everybody. Like if anybody has a problem with that, let us know. But we really want to make sure that we've got everybody on board with this. You're gonna be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn't want to make life easier for a wheelchair user. Very few people are like anti helping people with in wheelchairs. You say we want to make sure that we have racial and ethnic representation on our board that gets stickier and you might need an outside voice like us or some other really, really wonderful people who can explain really what we're doing here. But the very first step is to figure out exactly what you mean by inclusivity. Now, let me ask you.

So do you find, you know, with this the wheelchair versus someone of a different ethnicity. So they are open to widening that cubicle? Because is it because they see the person in the wheelchair as less threatening? Is that a part of it versus I mean, I think for some people, Yeah, I think the other thing is that for for a lot of folks who haven't truly For a lot of white people especially who were kind of thrust into racial equity at the like J point in the conversation in 2020, they don't understand what is unfair or wrong about different, about not wrong, unfair or hard about other races. So they don't understand why their life has to change at all. Everyone understands what is challenging about being a wheelchair user. Like we just innately understand that. But because of the nature of how our country has no concept about how to have adult or productive conversations around race, there are many people who legitimately do not understand why life is much more difficult for people of color than white people and we can be as angry about that as we want to be or as frustrated or as I Roli.

But at the end of the day, my job usually when I walk into a relationship or a contract or a podcast or something else is to just lay out the facts here are the statistics here is the data here is the stories we've heard for generations, here is the implications and the reality. You can decide that they don't matter to you, but you can't decide that they're not real. So what are we gonna do about it? Mm I really got Kristen so I want to go a little deeper here with you on this now, you know, because a lot of people will kind of make up their own facts, right? Believe what they want to believe actually when it comes to race or racism and oh, you know the black men or you know, it's because they do this this and this and that's why they get shot by cops, you know, 100 times more than white men or white men aren't doing this and that's why you know this, this and this is happening, right?

Yeah. And so all I hear these all the time, um one of the benefits of being the empathy educator and the PhD is that I get these conversations in like bars. Um, and but it's okay cause I love it. So what I usually try to do is hear the person out, get their rant. I've heard it all I've heard, I've heard it all. Um it's very difficult to shock me. I'll say I joked that my first job out of college was teaching adolescents in Northern Ireland about sex. So you can, I was like the only girl in a room of 13 year old boys and I was there to teach them about masturbation, so you really cannot make me uncomfortable or surprised me. And it has served me really well in this work. Um, but so okay, so like let's say someone comes at me and it's um and they want to talk about how white men are also shot by the cops, because that's one of the things is black men aren't shot more, it just gets covered more because of cell phones.

And so I'll say okay, um why is, but are you okay with cops shooting people to begin with? And they'll say yes or no, and then I'll go from there. So what I try to do is have like the same conversation from a different angle. So somebody comes at me and says eric Brown is a total a total thug and he deserved to die and I will say, okay, I personally don't believe that anybody deserved to die. And I have some real questions about state resources being used to violently harm its citizens, but that notwithstanding, wouldn't it be great if we had a police department whose didn't like didn't carry guns and weren't violent and then they'll be like, that's impossible. And I'll say actually we're almost the only country on the planet where police officers carry guns. I lived in a country for five years where police officers only had billy clubs and they always walked around in pairs and they always, they were pretty much always recorded and they don't know, they don't no idea what I'm talking about.

And I'll be like, cause like I look at the police service of Northern Ireland and I'd be happy to tell you what community policing can look like. Mhm. And usually for me at that point it has like I just try to deescalate all the time. I'm not, like I said, I'm not interested in winning the conversation. People take a long time to change their minds and they never change them through shaming or statistics. They change it through stories and relationships, I may be the very first person that sat and heard all of their complaints about policing in America I, most of maybe their family and friends not along or they don't, they keep saying it because they don't feel heard. So I'll sit there and I'll listen and I will say, okay, thank you for sharing that. Sometimes they want to hear my opinion back. Sometimes they just want to verbally unload on somebody. But what I want everybody to take away from every interaction with me is that I see them as a human and I respect them as a human. And if we enter into a relationship, then that means that I can hopefully change your mind about some of the things that you've seen.

But if you don't want that, I can't do anything about that. All I can do is you know shine my light the lightest it goes, treat everyone with dignity and respect the best way I know how and move about my business. A huge part of empathy work is understanding what you can and cannot control I can't control what you think about something. I can't control what this person believes. If I could none of us would have facebook and Cambridge Analytica would actually be gone. But I can't do any of those things. All I can do is try to live the most centered, most empathetic, most kind life that I can and then offer people counter stories. Well I heard that blah blah blah blah. Where did you hear that? Well I heard it on the news. Okay well I heard on the news something different. So maybe both of them are true and maybe both of them are lies but my guess is that the truth is that like the actually what happened is somewhere in between. Mhm And you say that and most people agree with it.

We know that the news only shows us one side of the one side of the coin. Now there are 20% of every single population on any politicized on any polarizing issue than anything. 20% on either extreme that you're never gonna have a conversation with. That's just kind of accepted fact. Sometimes people say 10% but there are factions on the edges that you're never gonna have conversations with, that's just life. I am not ever trying to reach. I'm using air quotes anybody on those extremes. I want to help the people who are just figuring it out every day do it the best that they can. Hm Mhm wow, I love that Kristin and you know what I will say is I love your passion, you're just um it's amazing, you know, and I can imagine how impactful it is to have someone like you who knows what you're talking about, who's bringing empathy and you know, your research and data and just coming at it from kind of so impartially, you know, just hey I'm just here to connect, listen share no judgment and that's amazing.

We need more people like you, it's just we don't have enough people out there, but it's so amazing the work you're doing. Um Now let me ask you so, you know, for what are just some practical tips you would have for people who want or kind of craving empathy from someone, How do we get if there's someone I care about and I need them to empathize with what I'm going through right now, how do I get that through to that person? So you need them to understand what you're going through. That's the question Yes, I don't know because I don't do any work that helps you figure out how to impact somebody else. The best that I can offer is to communicate that clearly I believe firmly. It's a brain a brown quote and we say it all the time. Kind communication is clear communication. So saying to the person, I am like the way that you are acting right now with this thing that is going on isn't helpful to me.

And I trust that you love me and you want to be helpful. So can we talk about ways to be helpful? Mm I know you think what you're doing is is good or or helpful or you know maybe you don't but just clearly stating what you need. Every marriage counselor on the planet will tell you that this key to a successful marriage is stating what you need and listening to what your partner states in return. Mm I love it. I love that. So now. Um first and foremost in closing, I want to say you have been so awesome. I loved this conversation and I would love to circle back and do it again any time I would love that. And I just want to thank you so very much for your insights, your wisdom and all of that today, your time. Thank you so much. Like I said, it's a pleasure. Thanks for such a great conversation. These were really fun questions to ponder kristen before I let you go. If there's one message.

Some insight, what would you like to leave us with guilt is an unproductive emotion if you are on a growth path and you are embarrassed over who you once were or ashamed that you didn't know something at some point, I promise you that guilt is an unproductive emotion. You know better now. You can do better now go forward and human in a different way, apologize and be held accountable if you need to be. But most of the time we're the ones putting ourselves in some sort of ideological prison. So just be free to learn and consume and grow. I love it. Kristen you have been so awesome. Thank you so much. My absolute pleasure. Thank you. Yeah.

Blossom Your Awesome Podcast #70 The Power Of Empathy With Kristen Donnelly
Blossom Your Awesome Podcast #70 The Power Of Empathy With Kristen Donnelly
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