Wall of Barriers Activities: Develop Intellectual Empathy
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Develop Intellectual Empathy
Intellectual empathy means understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them. To develop intellectual empathy, you must recognize the natural human tendency to identify truth with your immediate perceptions or longstanding beliefs. Intellectual empathy correlates with the ability to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from assumptions, viewpoints, and ideas other than our own. This trait also requires that we remember situations in which you were wrong, despite an intense conviction that you were right, and consider that you might be similarly deceived in a case at hand. The opposite of intellectual empathy is intellectual closemindedness.
Reconstructing Arguments in Good Faith
Try to reconstruct the last argument you had with someone (a supervisor, colleague, friend, or intimate other). Reconstruct the argument from your perspective and that of the other person. Complete the statements below. As you do, watch that you do not distort the other’s viewpoint. Try to enter it in good faith, even if it means you have to admit you were wrong. (Remember that critical thinkers want to see the truth in the situation.) After you have completed this activity, show it to the person you argued with to see if you have accurately represented that person’s view.
Complete these statements:
1. Here is how the argument went...
2. My perspective was as follows (state and elaborate your view):
3. The other person’s view was as follows (state and elaborate the other person’s view):

Create a Plan for Practicing Intellectual Empathy
Create a plan to practice intellectual empathy in your life. This will require carefully thinking about the unique ways in which you avoid empathizing with others.
Whenever faced with an issue or question that requires you to consider more than one point of view, ask yourself:
1. What precisely is the question at issue?
2. What points of view are relevant to the question?
3. To what extent am I considering these viewpoints in good faith?
4. To the extent that I am avoiding these viewpoints, why am I doing this? What will I gain by avoiding these viewpoints? What will I have to give up if I consider these viewpoints?