Blog Post: To What Degree Do You Embody Intellectual Empathy?

Linda Elder
Dec 23, 2020 • 3y ago
To What Degree Do You Embody Intellectual Empathy?

{"ops":[{"insert":"Intellectual empathy requires us to think within the viewpoints of others, especially those we think are wrong. This is difficult until we recognize how often we have been wrong in the past and others have been right. Those who think differently from us sometimes possess truths we have not yet discovered. Practice in thinking within others’ viewpoints is crucial to your development as a thinker. Good thinkers value thinking within from opposing viewpoints. They recognize that many truths can be acquired only when they “try on” other ways of thinking. They value gaining new insights and expanding their views.\n\nThey appreciate new ways of seeing the world. They don’t assume their perspective to be the most reasonable one. They are willing to engage in dialogue to understand other perspectives. They don’t fear ideas and beliefs they don’t understand or have never considered. They are ready to abandon beliefs they have passionately held when those beliefs are shown to be false or misleading.\n \nAs you work to develop intellectual empathy, be on the lookout for…\n \n…opportunities to empathize today. Look for examples of empathetic behavior in others. Practice being empathetic. For example, whenever someone takes a position with which you disagree, state in your own words what you think the person is saying. Then ask the person whether you have accurately stated her or his position. Notice the extent to which others empathize with you. See whether there is a difference between what they say (“I understand”) and what their behavior possibly implies (that they aren’t actually listening to you). Ask someone who disagrees with you to state what he or she understands you to be saying. Notice when people distort what is being said to keep from changing their views or giving up something in their interest. Notice when you do the same. By exercising intellectual empathy, you understand others more fully, expand your knowledge of your own ignorance, and gain deeper insight into your own mind.\n \nStrategies for empathizing with others:\n1. During a disagreement with someone, switch roles. Tell the person, “I will speak from your viewpoint for ten minutes if you will speak from mine. This will perhaps help us understand one another better.” Afterward, each of you should correct the other’s representation of your position: “The part of my position you don’t understand is….”\n2. During a discussion, summarize what another person is saying using this structure: “What I understand you to be saying is….  Is this correct?”\n3. When reading, say to yourself what you think the author is saying. Explain it to someone else. Recheck the text for accuracy. This enables you to assess your understanding of an author’s viewpoint. Only when you are sure you understand a viewpoint are you in a position to disagree (or agree) with it.\n \nThis blog piece was adapted from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 55-56.\n"}]}

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