Climbing the empathy ladder

An empathy wall is an obstacle to a deep understanding of another person, one that can make us feel indifferent or even hostile to those who hold different beliefs or whose childhood is rooted in different circumstances.

Arlie Hochschild
Photo by Samantha Garrote on

In 2016, American sociologist, Arlie Hochschild wrote a book titled, “Strangers in their own land”. Many read with interest this exploration and examination of the United States and the rise to power of President Trump. One concept that she outlined has stuck with me over the past four years. In order to understand others who have different values, beliefs and attitudes than us, we may need to climb over an empathy wall in order to develop connections with them.

During these anxiety provoking times, the American presidential debate might have provided a beacon of light and hope for the future. But sadly, it did not. It was simply a spectacle the likes of which most analysts suggest they had never seen before. I have always watched them to develop a deeper understanding of our neighbours to the south.

Although the news feeds seem to be rife with scenes of protest, divisiveness, and violence in America, there are many pressing concerns to be addressed not the least of which is the global pandemic. Perhaps my expectations for this televised debate were too high, but I watched anticipating a signal that things would be moving in a more positive direction.

There wasn’t one.

One wonders how difficult it will be during the next few months for people to climb “an empathy wall” in order to develop connections to work with one another.

Hopefully, the inherent goodness in humanity will prevail and people will be able to climb over this chasm of division so globally we can begin to move forward. Perhaps a sense of hope is the ladder we need to get to where we need to be.

Stay healthy and safe!

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