Could Empathy Be The Answer?

Sometimes I have a hard time choosing which podcast to listen to while I do the dishes. I scroll through the list and nothing seems to catch my eye. There are a couple that I can just listen to at any time because the interviews, even though they are often with someone I have seemingly little in common with or interest in, are always interesting. They rarely leave me feeling like I wasted my time. Tim Ferriss is one of them.

Yesterday I listened to this one

Here’s the part that really struck me,

Ann Miura-Ko: So, it’s funny. My husband said to me in the past – and this is a lesson that I continue to try to learn and relearn – is that life is not a debate. And you know what he’s saying – and it’s funny. He was a debater as well in college and in high school and we joke that I would still have beaten him in high school if we had actually gone head-to-head. But, I think it’s a really important point that life isn’t about winning the argument. And he’s also said to me in the past, “You know, it’s not about being right.” And I think that’s so true and it’s something that I’m always trying to really practice in life and I think the debater in me makes it really hard. The things that you’re pointing out or what’s important about it is that people have a tendency to have an inner dialogue where they’re right. And instead of really listening to the other person, they’re coming up with the next argument that proves that person wrong. And so, if you go back to what I really loved about debate what I felt like I got out of it, it was actually this ability to see both sides of an argument, to really delve into a topic and understand why the side that I actually naturally believed could actually be flipped on its head. And that was a really important skill to develop and I think that was so much more important to develop than the skill to argue for my side. Because, I think in the world today, what we don’t see enough of is empathy for people you might even disagree with. And we get stuck in our version of truth and what is right and we aren’t truth seekers any more as a result. We’re truth winners.

Tim Ferriss: That’s very true. Yeah. Very true.

Ann Miura-Ko: And that’s a piece that really makes me sad is that when people are like, “Oh, this debate skill is so great to have because now you can ram people with your ideas.” And I’ve never seen a situation where you shouted people down and convinced them you are right. And I’ve seen situations where by developing true empathy for the other side, you actually create bridges and you create commonality, and you create situations where you can actually work together. And I think that’s the piece that I would take away from my debate experience. I would say actually making the person cry in cross-examination probably is not the skill that I should be using in real life, although maybe sometimes I do.”

Lessons learned? Find empathy for the people you disagree with. Shouting people down doesn’t convince them you are right.

Why does that seem to be so difficult these days? Why is “bullying” people into submission seem to be the only social skill we are really good at?

It seems everyone’s answer for getting the world they want to live in is to vote for a law to be passed or a person to run things and then put anyone who disagrees with the majority’s choices in a cage until they obey.

There seems to be no interest in empathy. Some people will give it a try if their adversary is just slightly wrong and the effort doesn’t seem to be too much to take on. But on the big things, the contentious, life-altering things, those things we’re not supposed to talk about at parties, there are few people that want to know the real why’s behind their so-called “enemy’s” thinking.

Why is that? Why are we all so interested in winning a game instead of seeking truth? Why can’t listen and try to understand and communicate instead of fight and win?

There is just so much to learn out there, so many people to communicate and connect with. I feel like I’m limited only to people who think like I do. If I express an opinion or point of view different than you, you block me, yell at me, or shut me down. That only makes me resentful and more set in my opinions, without the opportunity to learn or change them, or at least to know and understand another point of view.

How can we change this? Ask questions? Answer them honestly? Assume positive intent?


Ugg…my brain…

I keep thinking, “Oh! Wait! I’ll write about that today!” Then I open the word doc and lose the thought or think it’s just too negative to write about. It’s one of those days!

Here’s what I’m going with today. It’s a comment I made on Facebook to a friend. We were talking about the new bill in California to do away with bail.

I’m not sure about this. Bail is also set on your circumstances, higher bail for higher flight risk and financial ability. I don’t think this bill will really help anyone. All it does is put bail bonds people out of work. That’s a lot of money out of the economy, bail money doesn’t go to the court unless you skip it. But the bill does help poor people not have to pay a bail bondsman to be out of jail while waiting for trial.

My experience? I was accused of a violent crime and my bail was set at $50K. I had three choices: stay in jail until trial (which would have been one year away from my babies and without working my job), get the bail money and get it back when I get to court, or take a bail loan from a bondsman and lose 10% of that money when I go to court.

$5K is a lot of money to lose along with paying for a lawyer. We were lucky enough to have family that could loan us the bail and not charge interest.

So, I can see why eliminating monetary bail would be a positive…but…this bill is so vague about how they will keep people from skipping court instead of having to return for their money. Like I said, they already set a bail amount by judging your flight risk and the accusations against you, whether or not you might hurt someone else while waiting for trial or influence the case against you.

And then later on in the conversation, this thought came to me.

The easier you make it to for the police and courts to convict a criminal, the harder you make it for the innocent to acquit themselves of the accusations made against them. That’s when you have people with more money getting a better deal than the poor. AND the court only counts an arrest as good if someone is convicted, not if the crime stops or is solved. It doesn’t matter who goes to jail, just that someone does.

It’s not that police and the justice system are evil, it’s that we’ve lost sight of their purpose and that they are fallible. And we’ve lost sight of the reasons for our rights.

I’d rather see a criminal go free than an innocent in jail. It’s hard but it’s the way she goes.

Dark Ages?

I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain right now and she brought up an excellent point that has led me in an illuminating direction.

I’m paraphrasing here (A LOT) but a study she cited in the book showed that individuals given a simple test would score an average of 95%. Change it to a group of individuals and the average was lower. Add to that group some people that deliberately and assertively offer the wrong answer, the average score lowered even more. All the members of the group had to agree on an answer. Wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment at a gathering of people? I’d like to try that experiment at a homeschool gathering.

She was demonstrating that group projects and brainstorming do not produce bigger and better ideas, they usually do the opposite. What’s strange is that few people I’ve ever talked to say they loved group projects in school and got so much out of them. Usually, group projects are the bane of many a student’s career and the butt of many tv and movie jokes. And yet, at every school, business, or seminar, we push each other into small groups to “brainstorm” ideas.

She also talked about the internet and “open source” projects. That was positive. We’re all in our own spaces, trying to figure out a problem, adding our two cents through an email or chat room. Good things come of that in general.

But it made me think of something else, the dreaded social media. It reminds me of the experiment in which there are plants assertively giving a false answer and more people going along with it. So many times I’ve read an article, or really just a post (it seems no one actually writes whole articles much anymore just short blurbs or one-liners, preferably with a pretty or funny picture in the background) and I’ve thought “Well, this just doesn’t make sense in light of what I know to be true and what I can deduce from what I’ve read and experienced.” I start to think the person is just mistaken or maybe angry and most people wouldn’t agree with the statement, but then thousands chime in with a “like” or positive comment. It seems they are just agreeing without any thought to it, only because the person is assertive and charismatic, or just clever in their presentation. Then I start to think, “Maybe I’m wrong. I can’t possibly be the only person here that sees the truth. I must have my facts wrong.”

I’m not a fan of social media for anything besides knowing what my family and close friends are up to lately, the sharing of jokes, and connecting with groups over a common subject…wait…isn’t that all social media is for? I try not to listen to people’s opinions about politics and such. But it disturbs me to think that my most boisterous friends and the public figures that I follow are the ones people follow and emulate without taking the time to think about what they’ve said. Will they vote in the same manner? I believe they will. It seems to me, every time something negative happens more people vote to take other people’s rights away. Do people even stop to think that the rights they vote to take away will end up being their own eventually? Do we stop to think if what’s being said is true or right? Do we think about how a new law will affect people or if it will help anything at all? Or do we all believe that if a law saves one person from harm but harms thousands of others, that’s ok?

It seems to me that any social media platform is a great place to throw what I call “lack of thought bombs” or “thought disruptors” into a group of people. Why would someone do that? To make space for their own ideas? To try and take over the world? Or just to get attention? Can we use it better if we know this kind of thing can happen and be better, smarter people because we’ve learned a better way to use a new communication tool? Or will social media just be the start of a new “dark ages” of thought?

Following Politics

It’s all so bizarre. Facebook reminded me to follow all my state and federal representatives this morning, so I did. Instantly, my feed was full of boogeymen! “That guy is coming to get you! This woman is a monster! Look what awful things are happening here! And I am the only one between you and the nasty in the world! Let me fix this for you!” Ugg. How can they live with themselves every day? I suppose they believe they are helping the world, but I really think they are doing absolutely nothing. Or maybe worse, they are creating problems to fix and creating more problems. The whole world would go on rolling without them, and probably in a much better mood, if they just disappeared (other than their families, naturally). I’m speaking politically, not personally here.

Honestly, it’s enough to put anyone off their nut. They might as well come out and say “Gravity is deplorable! Death needs to be overcome! People out there might not have your best interests at heart! Don’t worry though! Give me money and your vote and I will keep you all safe. Ok, just most of your votes and then I’ll just put anyone in jail that doesn’t give me their money to do what we think is best to protect you from all the nasty things I’ve created to scare you!”

I love the internet and social media, but I sometimes wonder if it can be used for good without the bad. I wonder if people thought the same thing about newspapers and books when they became readily available? I suppose we’ll all get the hang of it eventually. Sometimes it wears me out how quickly and vehemently everyone online gets into scare and attack mode.

Gone With the Wind


833 pages.
40.17 hours.
32 days.

I finished “Gone With the Wind”. I found this book at the thrift store for $1 and it went straight to the top of my reading pile.

I’d rate this one right up there with War & Peace! Wow! What a great story! The movie really did it justice too. I swear she must have written the book with those actors in mind. The characters. The history. The perspective of the American Civil War and Reconstruction. I have to find a couple good books on the Reconstruction Era, one from a couple different angles. The more I learn about the Civil War, the less I can find any ‘good guys’ on either side as far as politics and war goes. In civilians, I can find many heroes and angels.

This was one of those books I just couldn’t put down, especially toward the end. I cried and sobbed even though I’ve seen the movie several times and know what happens. I just kept hoping the book would end differently. Now I have to watch the movie again. Good thing I have it on DVD!

Onward to the next book on my list. Unfortunately, I’ll have to do a bit of research before I add Reconstruction books to my pile. I’m sure one will come up sooner or later. Today I started “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence. It’s also one of my all-time favorite movies!

“News” Sources

Do we really get our “news” from Facebook feeds? I’ve always considered it a much like a “social” gathering or a party line of the old telephone days. You might hear what your friends think about something or what’s going on in the neighborhood, but you won’t really find any investigative reporting, something to base any decision on.

That made me think. Where do I get my news? It’s difficult to say. I read blogs, search out information from other sources when I see posts that intrigue me. So many times I get bogged down with so much conflicting information that I give up trying to understand at all. You know what I’d like? A reliable local and state news. When something is going on in town or in the state, someone runs out to it and reports back what’s actually happening. Maybe they could add some commentary about it, speculation maybe, and maybe some links to other people that wrote about it. Every town needs someone like that! And then we could all read them and take the information in. Is there something I could actually do to help? Voting to have someone else do something or protesting by standing on a street corner doesn’t count. Then we could actually do something.

Sometimes our little “What’s Happening In XYZ” groups can be like that. Someone’s car broke down. I have a minute and some tools to help! Someone’s dog is lost. I saw him on this street! Someone’s family member passed away. Let’s set up some financial help! But that doesn’t cover things on a bigger scale like the whole county or state. I wonder what that would look like?

I guess I’m just wishing more people would just look for ways to actually report what’s going on to the world in real terms and ways to really provide help instead of just campaigning to change or add new laws and tax others to get the help they think is needed. Kind of like that saying, “See a need. Fill a need.” and by that, I don’t mean see someone else in need and vote for someone else to take care of it in the future.

What is the difference between a porn star and a prostitute?

It sounds like the beginning of a crude joke but I’m serious. A porn star performs sex acts for money in front of a camera. A prostitute performs sex acts for money in private. One is legal and the other isn’t. One has protections by law, the other is an outlaw, meaning outside the law, unprotected. Both professions don’t necessarily require their workers to accept the money and perform. It’s up to the practitioner. You don’t expect a porn star to have to perform for you if you pay them. And you don’t expect a prostitute to either. They can say no to your offer. Well, the porn star can because they are protected by the law. If someone attempts to force them to sell their services, they have legal recourse. A prostitute doesn’t really. The only thing I can see that makes them different and one more dangerous than the other is that one is legal and one is not. Making prostitution illegal has created new dangers.

Why is prostitution illegal? I can understand why you would not want to be a prostitute, especially from my Christian point of view, but I don’t understand why the state would become involved. Unless the state believes it is something so bad that you can be trusted to make the right choice for yourself. Is the state making life safe for you by taking away a bad choice? But then being a porn star is essentially the same thing, isn’t it? The only difference is the film industry. So if the state made prostitution illegal because you need to be protected from making an unhealthy choice, why wouldn’t being a porn star be illegal too?

Personally, we’re all adults and are capable of making decisions for ourselves. We do not need the state to protect us from ourselves. If my religion and ethics do not forbid me to perform sex acts outside of marriage, who’s business is it if I choose to sell my services? What if we encouraged people to take responsibility for their own lives, make their own choices and then use the legal system to protect their right to do so. For instance, if prostitution were legal (and unregulated, dammit), if one person put out their board “Sex for Sale – $100” and “We reserve the right to refuse customers.”, then the state would be responsible for helping them defend their right to be paid for services rendered, protect them from those who would do them harm, and help them to be compensated for damages.

Wouldn’t our legal system be a lot more simple and efficient if the state just left people alone to take care of themselves and was there as a third party arbitrator?