Empathy – Boundaries – Personal Advocacy

Empathy is essential when establishing and enforcing our boundaries. When we use the word empathy we are referring to intellectual empathy. What does that mean?

“Understanding the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others to genuinely understand them… It correlates with the ability to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also requires that we remember occasions when we were wrong, despite an intense conviction that we were right, and consider that we might be similarly deceived in a case at hand.” [1]

A challenging but useful exercise is to imagine yourself as someone else. Let your eyes find someone nearby, now look at their shoes. Imagine what it would feel to be wearing those right now. How do you think they would feel? Now think about someone you know, perhaps someone who’s hurt your feelings recently. Ignore your feelings and imagine being them. What do you think they were feeling at the time when they were hurting you? Why do believe they were feeling this? What if you’re wrong? What else could they have been feeling at this moment?

We are going to do an exercise, first I want you to write down the premise they were acting from when the event occurred. Next, what assumptions might they have been operating from and finally what do you think their thoughts, opinions or plans were?

Intellectual empathy is an effective critical thinking tool. When implemented correctly it serves as a valuable resource to establish and enforce personal boundaries. It also helps us identify the walls of others. With this information we improve our ability to treat others fairly while encouraging them to do the same.

[1] Paul, Richard, and A. J. A. Binker. Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World. Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2012.

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