Humane Connection

7 Habits of Highly Empathic People

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via Creative Commons
Empathy is a key component of humane education, and something our society is increasingly growing to understand as essential to our well-being and the well-being of the world. Studies show that we're innately wired to be empathetic, and that, for example, empathy can play a role in reducing racism. As we at IHE have talked about frequently (such as here, here and here), empathy is also something that can -- and must -- be cultivated and nurtured.

Roman Krznaric, author, and founding faculty member of The School of Life, wrote a post for the Greater Good Science Center outlining 6 habits of highly empathic people that we each can cultivate in ourselves.

Here are his 6 habits:

1. Talk with strangers.

"Curiosity expands our empathy when we talk to people outside our usual social circle, encountering lives and worldviews very different from our own."

2. Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities.

"HEPs [Highly Empathic People] challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them."

3. Try another person's life.

"HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, 'Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.'"

4. Listen hard -- and open up.

"There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist. One is to master the art of radical listening. ... The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences."

5. Inspire mass action and social change.

"HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change." 

6. Develop an ambitious imagination.

"We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be 'enemies' in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. ... Empathizing with adversaries is also a route to social tolerance."

Read the complete post.

But there's at least one vital empathic habit missing from Krznaric's list, so we've added it:

7. Extend your empathic lens to nonhuman animals and the earth.

We get so wrapped up in our own human problems that we forget there's a whole world of tens of millions of species, and billions of nonhuman individuals with their own needs, desires, and interests separate from our own, and a natural world on which we rely for our very existence. We also forget (or choose to ignore) just how deeply our choices affect other beings and the planet. Krznaric limits his habits of empathy to humans, but it's vital for our own health and well-being that we extend our empathic lens to include other animals and the earth.

Whenever we have the power to prevent or reduce suffering, cruelty, injustice, or destruction for people, animals, and/or the earth, we must act to do so. Otherwise, we can never fully reach our highest potential as human (and empathic) beings.

~ Marsha

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Humane Issues in the News

Each week we round-up the news you need to know about humane issues, from human rights and environmental preservation, to animal protection, to media and culture, to activism, education, and changemaking.

"Your smartphone's dirty, radioactive secret" (via Mother Jones) (November/December 2012)

Study says except for black males, education extends life expectancy (via Alternet) (11/26/12)

Study indicates potential link between traffic pollution exposure and autism (via Treehugger) (11/26/12)

"The shocking details of a Mississippi school-to-prison pipeline" (via Colorlines) (11/26/12)

13-year-old from Sierra Leone makes generators, batteries, etc., out of scrap (via Grist) (11/26/12)

112 killed in fire at Bangladesh garment factory (via AP/Yahoo!) (11/24/12)

Study reports great apes also experience "mid-life crisis" (via LA Times) (11/19/12)

"More than 1,000 new coal plants planned worldwide, figures show" (via The Guardian) (11/19/12)

"The past and future of America's biggest retailers" (via NPR) (11/19/12)

Study with minks shows that captive animals get very bored (via PLOS One) (11/12)

Keep up with more humane issues in the news via our Facebook or Twitter pages. 
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Where Are All the Women & Girls? Report Shows Disheartening Picture of Female Characters in Movies and TV

Image courtesy Walt Stoneburner
via Creative Commons.
As humans, we pay a lot of attention to what we see around us -- what we notice others doing -- as it's important to us to feel like we belong. But what happens when the messages being modeled are skewed and potentially harmful? When we don't see others like ourselves portrayed in media? Females make up 50% of the population, but you wouldn't know that by watching TV or movies. And the kinds of roles female characters play are often stereotyped and sexualized.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media recently commissioned the Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism to research the prevalence and type of gender roles in film and TV. Their report, Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television, assessed "11,927 speaking characters for gender roles across three media: 129 top-grossing family films (G, PG, PG-13) theatrically released between September 2006 and September 2011; 275 prime-time programs across approximately a week of regularly airing series in the Spring of 2012 on 10 broadcast (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW) and cable (Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, E!, MTV) channels; and 36 children’s TV shows airing in 2011 across three networks (Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS)."

Researchers examined the prevalence of male and female speaking characters; the nature of those portrayals (e.g., any stereotypes?); and the occupational pursuits of characters, "and the degree to which males and females are shown working in a variety of prestigious industries and STEM careers." Their findings included these:

1. Gender imbalance still exists in popular entertainment.

Researchers looked at a variety of factors, such as how prevalent female speaking characters were across the various types of media and by program genre, and the degree of gender (im)balance within racial and ethnic groups. Here's what they found:

"Despite representing half the population, females are still sidelined in family films, children’s shows, and prime-time programs. The most gender inequality is observed in kids’ shows rated TV-Y7, PG-13 rated family films, and children’s and comedy series airing during prime time. It appears that, no matter their age, children and teens do not consistently see girls and women in the popular media they consume."

2. Females are still stereotypes and sexualized in popular entertainment.

Researchers examined "appearance indicators" such as attire, exposed skin (around the chest, stomach, and/or upper thighs), references to a character's attractiveness, and the prevalence of thin bodies. As researchers noted: "Females, when they are on screen, are still there to provide eye candy to even the youngest viewers."

3. Females still suffer from employment imbalance in film and prime-time TV.

Researchers assessed the percentage of speaking characters shown working, and also compared that information to real data about the U.S. labor force. They discovered that men are more often shown with jobs than women, and that media representations are skewed from real-world data.

4. Females are much less frequently shown in prestigious occupations.

Researchers looked at different high-level occupations and filtered by gender. These jobs included CEOs, investors, politicians, doctors, editors-in-chief, media content creators, etc. Their assessment showed that the percentage of female characters shown in positions of power is substantially smaller than for men.

5. Few females work in scientific fields.

Researchers also found inequity in the percentage of female characters shown in careers such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, and the life/physical sciences. As researchers said: "Outside of the dramatic series genre, only one comedy show and one news magazine depicts women in STEM. For females, excising dramatic programs eliminates STEM."

Read the complete report.

These findings are disheartening, but they're also an opportunity for students and citizens to conduct their own investigations and to take positive action to ensure that there are more women and girls appearing in significant roles in the media, and that those roles reflect more diverse and empowered characters. They're also a great reminder to us as parents and citizens to be mindful of the messages we're modeling about the role of women and girls in society.

~ Marsha

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