Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Power of Empathy

Alright, let's see if I can even make it through this blog post! The struggle is real and last Thursday's lecture about distractions hits way too close to home. Even now I am locked in the spare bedroom to get away from the distractions of my husband and daughter (don't tell them I said that), and I still find myself scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when my only intention for logging on was to get the article I saved as my resource link.

If I'm being completely honest, the past week or so I have been stressed about what I would write for this blog post. It wasn't until last weekend as I was scrolling through my newsfeed that this article caught my eye:

I consider myself to be an emphatic person. It's so bad that I cry in movies/shows I probably shouldn't. Perfect example: Bate's Motel, when Norman is going to therapy and is having flashbacks to his childhood when his mother is being assaulted.... tears. Or in Air Bud, when Josh leaves Buddy and runs back to the boat without many tears. My husband thinks I'm ridiculous (no shame), but that's beside the point. My point is that I was reading this article and I kept thinking about how the concepts reminded me of the things we've talked about in class so far.

The first point talks about curiosity. From what I've learned so far in this class (my first Rhetoric class), to enjoy rhetoric you need to have a curious mind that enjoys gaining new knowledge and insight about things outside your comfort zone. You have to be willing to ask questions and even more so be able to understand those answers and critically evaluate them. The second point goes right along with that when it talks about challenging preconceptions and assumptions about people or situations. From the lectures we've had in class I've learned that almost everything is open to interpretation.

The third and fourth points, didn't spark any real interest as far as this class, but the fifth point definitely did. This was the point that "sealed the deal" for me. Number five talks about using empathy to inspire action and social change. I think this is one way that I have seen contemplate social movements trying to persuade others rather than coerce them. With the Executive Order recently imposed I've had a HUGE increase in sad photos of refugee children on my newsfeed. See example below:

The goal of this article above and other articles like it (in my opinion) are to cause emotional reactions from the readers, that ultimately inspire them to make a stand. The last line of Six Habits of Highly Emphatic People states, "This [using empathy to create mass political action] will only happen if social networks learn to spread not just information, but emphatic connection." I believe articles like the National Geographic example above are able to spread the emphatic connection needed to spark social movements because I've seen it do just that on my personal newfeed. 

Side note: I ended up checking Facebook 4 times while completing this post. Fail.

***Update: I had this post ready to go last night but duty called. (We're currently in the process of potty-training my 2 year old, so you can take that literally or figuratively and you'd still be correct). Regardless, I'm happy I did not post last night because this morning I was presented with another awesome example of empathy being used to persuade people into action. 

Today, Froggy 98 is having a radiothon for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. During my drive to work I heard the story of Allison, a sweet little girl who lost her battle with cancer on her fifth birthday. The story was told by her mother and Cole Swindell's song "You Should Be Here" played in the background. It was extremely powerful and emotional. Being a mother of a young daughter myself it really hit close to home. Of course I started crying, but I had a new perspective of why this story was being shared. Not only was it to keep Allison's memory alive, but it was being shared in hopes it would trigger an emotional reaction in the listeners. It was done with the goal of persuading people to call in and become a Partner in Hope because they felt empathy towards the mother who lost her daughter to cancer. The end goal was to have listeners who felt so moved by the story call in and donate money to fund cancer research. 


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