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Skill of empathy

A person with empathy demonstrates an adequate understanding of the complexity of what can be important to diverse others. Often a person with diversity empathy can interpret experiences or perspectives from their own and more than one view. This person can act supportive and recognize the feelings of a person with a different perspective and diverse assumptions, values, and beliefs.

If we practice empathy when faced with diversity, we adopt what Milton Bennett calls The Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”. When we demonstrate empathy, we strive to experience the situation as the diverse other person may experience the event. We even seek to connect emotionally as we take on the diverse person’s perspective.

I recently learned of an experience of a diverse other where empathy was not implemented. If you consult the Diversity Wheel in Step 1.3, you may notice one type of diversity is family. This means that not all families are the same; not all families are like your family. Some families have two parents. Other families have one parent. There are families with two gay parents. In my story, we have mother who is a single parent who was challenged with a childcare issue before work. As a result, she arrived at work 15 minutes late for a meeting. Rather than practice empathy, the committee members, all of whom were males, penalized the single mother for being late. She was not permitted to contribute or participate in the important meeting.

Now consider, how did it feel for this working single parent mother? What behavior did she demonstrate that was perplexing or even offensive to her coworkers? How might her behavior be considered different or unacceptable to her male coworkers? If her male coworkers demonstrated empathy to a single parent mother, how might this situation be handled differently?

Please share your answers to these questions above in comments. In addition, think of a time when you were shown empathy due to a diversity issue and share this example in comments as well. Next please comment on two to three other learners comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Diversity and Inclusion

Purdue University

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