Apathy and Empathy

Never before in modern history was it more important for voters to get out and vote. With so much at stake, I find it quite incomprehensible that almost half the population of the United States of America chose not to cast a vote in their election last week. In their founding days, voters made more of an effort, travelling large distances with limited modes of transport. What has happened to this apathetic and politically lazy nation of today?

As a result of their convoluted Electoral College system, despite more people voting for Hilary Clinton, millions of Americans woke up the day after the election, trumped into a stunned silence. With a gaping chasm of uncertainty about what’s going to come next and how this outcome will influence history, not only in America but around the planet. The most powerful position in the nation has been handed to a man who has mismanaged funds, thrives on the blame game when things go wrong and walks away without any thought as to the consequences his actions have had on people around him; a man who boasts that his power afforded him the privilege of using women. A man who wants to build a wall and divide families and neighbourhoods.

Clearly many millions did vote for this man. Perhaps they are just so fed up with the current political class, scared about the VUCA world they find themselves in and looking for someone to blame.  Perhaps they are now simply wired for celebrity and wanted a Kardashian like presence in the White House? Or maybe their values got skewed somewhere along the way, and it’s now OK to demonize people, call them nasty names, blame them, humiliate and divide them.

I ask you, are we to explain to our young innocent children that if you live your life with values such as these, you’ll go far and even get to be the President of the United Stated of America? How did it come to this? In a country so saturated with some of the most talented minds on the planet? And they chose this man!

I am trying to fire up my own Emotional Intelligence, and respond rather than to react to this news. To navigate through the emotions of fear and anger that have raged through me all week. To remain optimistic and look for different ways of understanding what has happened, and how I personally can find a way to make my little part of the world a better place. My circle of influence is small, but there must be something I can do. I imagine thousands of Americans have already signed up to community and civil rights groups, determined to continue fighting for the democratic beliefs and strengths that they are famous for the world over. For many of these are possibly at risk, and now is the time to remember that every person counts. The compassionate quality of every daily conversation matters. Every positive action matters.

The time for Empathy has come. That wonderful life enriching ability to see the world from another person’s shoes, to look at any situation from multiple perspectives non-judgementally before making any decisions. To understand that emotions give us data, and the thoughts and feelings of other people need to be deeply considered so that we have as much information as possible before we come to any conclusions.  To tune into our feelings, have hundreds of words to express them and recognize what they’re telling us. To embrace cultural diversity as a global strength and blessing, and keep perspective when considering both local and global issues.

This past week I have heard people say that hopefully the President elect was all bravado during the campaign to disrupt and get noticed! And now that he’s won the prize, he’ll develop some Emotional and Conversational Intelligence, become more considered, compassionate, visionary and globally competent. A gnawing thought at the back of my head reminds me that a leopard doesn’t easily change its spots.

According to the Six Seconds State of the Heart Report 2016, Empathy is declining globally, perhaps explaining in part why there are some concerning protectionist voting trends. So what can we as individuals without political power do to reverse these trends and turn the tide of Apathy to one of more Empathy:

  • Understand that every brain has a bias – we’re just not aware of our biases
  • Find out what your biases are and challenge them. Find a better way – the non-judgemental way
  • Treat everyone you meet fairly and with compassion and respect
  • Learn more about yourself – call it your Personal Discovery Mission. There’s a plethora of great self-awareness tools. If you need someone to walk you through this journey, find a Coach
  • Start journalling every day: name 5 things you’re grateful for, 3 positive intentions for the day & name your 1 random act of kindness
  • Smile at 5 strangers every day
  • Read 1 motivational quote every day
  • Reach out to 2 people every day, through a call, a message or a text – just check in that they’re OK
  • Volunteer an hour a week to a charity or cause that you believe in
  • Start living Mindfully – find 5 minutes every day to stop & practice being Mindful
  • Focus – cut out the multi-tasking
  • Pay attention when people speak to you – listen more to connect
  • Grow your vocabulary around feelings and emotions – tune into the data they provide you
  • Read the news – stay alert and involved. Look at every story from multiple perspectives. Imagine yourself in their position and what it would feel like
  • Give people the chance to clean up their mess with you – forgive and forget
  • Stay confidential – when you’re told things in confidence, keep it that way
  • Think about how you want to be remembered. What do you want your grandchildren to say about you at your 80th birthday? Let this help you shape your decisions on a daily basis

In this way, let’s all make a difference, one conversation and one day at a time. It takes many water droplets to make a river.

Cheers Alison