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Empathy works? Cmon now.....


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44 replies to this topic

#1
Josh F

Josh F

    Thought Terrorist


  • 754 posts

Inspired by Stef's approach with Russell Brand, I attempted a little empathy myself with some youtubers.  Mostly it went about as you would expect, deflection, lots of weird trying to sound smart obscure replies... but one guy.... he started attacking me saying I was this and that.  I didn't attack back, but expressed curiosity and interest and he apologized and seemed to have some kind of revelation.  We ended up talking about some childhood trauma and other stuff and he even sent me a private message. 

 

Another guy who thought this community was about NeoLiberalism was saying we were advocating the exploitation of the third world.   I was able to convince to watch an Introduction to Anarchy, and he appeciated being exposed to new thinking.

 

If Stef's theory about unresolved childhood trauma is even half true, hell even if it isn't, our "no you're wrong! dummy!" approach is completely ineffective.  Meaning if you're using the approach you're not being aware of the consequences of your approach.  And if your not being aware of the consequences, your being abusive, and doing a disservice to the message. 

 

I'm stepping it up myself, who is with me?


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#2
xelent

xelent

  • 2176 posts
I'm stepping it up myself, who is with me?

 

I'm with you TT.. That is what they call in philosophy circles, as 'getting to the point'. :)


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#3
ILO

ILO

  • 23 posts

I'm with it!


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#4
Lians

Lians

  • 388 posts

I just wanted to say that I appreciate the work that some members are doing (including you TT) to bring truth to the cesspool of YouTube comments. I, myself, don't have the stomach for that.


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#5
Josh F

Josh F

    Thought Terrorist


  • 754 posts

I just happen to be home nursing a bad chest cold, so i thought shit I might as well put it into practice.  My recent deFOO from my parents has really helped eliviate my frustration and hot temperateness, personally.


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#6
SuzieDavis

SuzieDavis

  • 7 posts

Calm and collected. Totally helps get your point and vies across more then berating and telling people they are just out right wrong. Good job TT!!


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#7
Rainbow Jamz

Rainbow Jamz

    That Popular Anti-Social Guy


  • 766 posts

I'm with you 100%. There are many Xboxlive trolls and hatemailers I was able to diffuse by simply becoming empathetic and curious as to why they were unhappy with the way I played or beat them. I am surprised by the change of voice expression and typing method at the end where I got apologies and mutual understanding.


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Nothing is permanent, only short term or long term.


#8
Mishelle

Mishelle

  • 334 posts

this is ole southern know-how!  you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar   ;)


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"...when the struggle seems to be drifting definitely towards a world social democracy, there may still be very great delays and disappointments before it becomes an efficient and beneficent world system. Countless people... will hate the new world order... and will die protesting against it. When we attempt to evaluate its promise, we have to bear in mind the distress of a generation or so of malcontents, many of them quite gallant and graceful-looking people."
- H. G. Wells,The New World Order

 

"When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you… you may know that your society is doomed."
–Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged


#9
Hugh Akston

Hugh Akston

  • 53 posts

I've been training my dog and getting him to socialize with other dogs, and I notice a lot of similarity between the way humans respond to aggression and the way dogs do.  My dog simply ignores other dog's when they start "misbehaving" and it seems very effective, this has worked well for me at work too!  Unfortunately he behaves very badly when he encounters overly submissive dogs and quickly becomes aggressive, just like some humans do.


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All phenomena are real in some sense, unreal in some sense, meaningless in some sense, real and meaningless in some sense, unreal and meaningless in some sense, and real and unreal and meaningless in some sense.

#10
Pepin

Pepin

  • 532 posts

The biggest obstacle I have in conversing with others online is not sounding like I'm talking down to people. I've spent a decent amount of thought on this and talked about it with a friend, and we've concluded that I'm not talking down to people, it is just my semi-ocd and simplistic way of explaining things.

 

Rebuttals on the other hand I am likely too harsh with. I get a strong amount of satisfaction in ripping apart someone's argument. On another forum that I used to argue quite a lot on, though the forum was quite liberal, I got a bit of reputation for destroying arguments.

 

I think I am much better than I used to be in my presentation, but to another degree I don't really converse much on youtube on other places anymore.


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#11
Josh F

Josh F

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Ask questions.  I asked one guy "Wait, what do you think Libertarianism is about?" and he was so off, i realize i could have waste hours talking past him if i didnt know he was arguing against something completely different.  He thought it was about privatizing the military and in favor of the Federal Reserve. 


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#12
Mishelle

Mishelle

  • 334 posts

I've learned so much about humans by living closer animals!  Our dogs never hold a grudge, though they hurt each other regularly.  The turkeys want to dominate the hens.  The mamas will do anything to protect their chicks.  Among the domesticated animals there is occasional accidental death and never ever murder. Among even the wildest animals there is never mass slaughter.  


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"...when the struggle seems to be drifting definitely towards a world social democracy, there may still be very great delays and disappointments before it becomes an efficient and beneficent world system. Countless people... will hate the new world order... and will die protesting against it. When we attempt to evaluate its promise, we have to bear in mind the distress of a generation or so of malcontents, many of them quite gallant and graceful-looking people."
- H. G. Wells,The New World Order

 

"When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you… you may know that your society is doomed."
–Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged


#13
Guest_darkskyabove_*

Guest_darkskyabove_*

Never-ending battle for me. I tend to take people at their "words", and become oblivious to the underlying issues that caused said "words". It can be difficult to decipher a "logical" stance versus an "emotional" stance. I just don't relate as well on an empathic level. Maybe, I don't have enough practice. Or, maybe, I don't exercise an ability I have.

 

I'd like to work more at applying the Socratic method. Rather than telling people things, ask pointed questions which can lead the listener towards a different thought pattern. The magic is that they feel as if they've discovered a new idea on their own. And, regardless of the ideology of the "ruling class", people don't seem to like being told how to act, think and feel. I know I don't. (Note to self: work on applying Socratic method!!!)

 

There's a part of me that wonders if communication isn't the most important aspect of human relation. And it's not easy. There are so many variables which can interfere with understanding another person's point of view.

 

On top of everything else I've gained by joining this forum, this might be the issue of the highest significance.


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#14
LovePrevails

LovePrevails

  • 1365 posts

well done TT!!!

 

will you post some transcripts for us to review your approaches and learn from them?


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#16
Nathan Diehl

Nathan Diehl

  • 189 posts

I learn so much from you's guys  :thanks:


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#18
Guest_darkskyabove_*

Guest_darkskyabove_*

Does this thread mean people are more open to the "argument from effect" than they usually admit in other settings?

 

I know that I'm not. What I am open to is improving my ability to communicate with others, especially those who are very much opposed to my views. Not sure that it's a direct relationship between "giving people space" and accepting an "argument from effect". Though I do see how that translates to the "empathic" methodology. I do not accept that I must change my principles in order to communicate, even with those who disagree with my principles. How productive such communication will be is not so clear.

 

On the one hand, there's me. Bullshit proof. As a standard model, I am not very accepting, therefore, people who profit by preying on empathy have quite the shock coming when plying their wares on me.

 

On the other hand, there's me. How much am I missing by keeping my bullshit sensor on high alert? How many innocents do I alienate by a lack of empathy?

 

I've featured this quote on my website ever since I read it many years ago. Putting it into practice, though, is a lifelong challenge. I almost feel like it requires a certain talent to do it.

 

"Men should be taught as if you taught them not,
and things unknown proposed as things forgot,
to speak tho' sure with seeming diffidence.
For want of modesty is want of sense.
- Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography quoting from Essay on Criticism

 

I did not know of this quote. It does seem to require a special talent, thus my use of the qualifier "magic". Good thing ol' Ben didn't have a copyright. :)


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#20
Josh F

Josh F

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Never-ending battle for me. I tend to take people at their "words", and become oblivious to the underlying issues that caused said "words". It can be difficult to decipher a "logical" stance versus an "emotional" stance. I just don't relate as well on an empathic level. Maybe, I don't have enough practice. Or, maybe, I don't exercise an ability I have.

 

I'd like to work more at applying the Socratic method. Rather than telling people things, ask pointed questions which can lead the listener towards a different thought pattern. The magic is that they feel as if they've discovered a new idea on their own. And, regardless of the ideology of the "ruling class", people don't seem to like being told how to act, think and feel. I know I don't. (Note to self: work on applying Socratic method!!!)

 

There's a part of me that wonders if communication isn't the most important aspect of human relation. And it's not easy. There are so many variables which can interfere with understanding another person's point of view.

 

On top of everything else I've gained by joining this forum, this might be the issue of the highest significance.

The socratic method is another excellent approach.  One thing Stef does I'd like to adopt, just a one sentence reply.

 

well done TT!!!

 

will you post some transcripts for us to review your approaches and learn from them?

I can look, but it is aushc a long long long list of comments and I cleared my inbox.  If they send me another message it will pop up.  The really good one ws private, so I wouldn't want to make it public.


The interesting thing is FDR is really a place that promotes deontology - action based on principle - very explicitly as opposed to consequentialism. Yet here we have a suggestion that is really consequentialist - do this because it works better - and everyone seems to agree with it. I think people that are strong deontologist may say "No. People should respond to rational argument so that is what I will do. Whether it actually works or not is not relevant because it's the principle that matters." Does this thread mean people are more open to the "argument from effect" than they usually admit in other settings?

if we're advocating the moral principle of empathy, using empathy is deontological.


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#22
Guest_darkskyabove_*

Guest_darkskyabove_*

My point was to ask "How are you measuring improvement?"

 

By not having a discussion devolve into a war of words. (Which I am equipped for, but getting to old to play the game.) ;)

 

Actually, I'm trying to look at this without having a "desired" goal. You make great points from a philosophical stance, and that should be my foundation, but at times I find myself looking for a practical application first, theoretical later.

 

This may be more relevant than ever in terms of the number of people possibly on the edge of converting to a more liberty-oriented mindset.

 

Do I stand firm on principle, and risk alienating newcomers, tailor my message to be more appealing, or, try to do both?

 

Interesting dilemma.


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#24
Guest_darkskyabove_*

Guest_darkskyabove_*

It sounds like you are, at least to a moderate extent, a consequentialist in this situation.

 

Might be more accurate to say I'm leaning towards consequentialism. In a limited sense. My nature is toward principle, love it, or leave it. But old dogs can still learn.

 

I'd like to think that, if I had any influence, my goal would be to "convince" others to practice liberty, and convince themselves.


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#26
Mike Fleming

Mike Fleming

    Atheist Anarchist Determinist


  • 375 posts

For me, an attack on what I believed is often felt by myself as an attack on me.  My fight-or-flight kicks in at that point and I'm not thinking rationally anymore, just ready to defend my beliefs (and thereby myself).  I'm one of those people who has a heightened fof mechanism due to all the psychological attacks suffered through my childhood.  Even now it is hard to control, and I do have the urge sometimes to attack others beliefs, basically as a way of pre-emptively defending myself.  

 

This is one of the reasons I don't do youtube much.  It becomes too stressful for me and knocks me back into old patterns.  I'm still practising but it is the people who can talk calmly and rationally who were able to steer me away from my bad beliefs and the knee-jerk reaction I had to defend them.  Those who derided or directly attacked my beliefs were largely just ignored by me.


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#27
Josh F

Josh F

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  • 754 posts

If you mean to say that the principle put forth by FDR is "always empathize with others" I would say that this is at best incomplete. For instance, what about De-FOO'ing? That involves much more than just empathizing with the other person. Clearly, the principle put forth at FDR is not to simply always empathize with others, but to also stand up for yourself, to speak the truth, and to put up healthy boundaries when necessary, as well.

 

The other, equally important principle that I see promoted on FDR is to expect empathy for yourself (and even for third parties) in return and to carefully consider associations with those who do not provide that in a reciprocal fashion.

 

I think "be empathetic" as a standalone principle or strategy is oversimplified and not what FDR really promotes. I think what FDR promotes is closer to something like tit-for-tat, where you try to empathize with the other, then see if they return that empathy or not, and go forth accordingly.

 

I often wish there was a solution as simple as "be empathetic to others." If the solution was anywhere near that simple, we would have found it already. The situation is so much more complicated than that unfortunately. I totally relate to the excitement when you do something straightforward like "act with curiosity and empathy" and a few conversations in a row go well and you start to think "wow it really is that easy!" But, unfortunately, that's usually just a result of very small sample size or only trying it out in a very narrow setting.

 

If "empathize with others" is really a principle, you would do it even if it fails to get the results you want. If you only continue to do it when it works, then it's consequentialism, not deontology.

You really pulled a lot out of that.  Let me be clearer, "If our goal is to teach people how to empathize, we need to practice it."  I think the goal of the FDR forum comes down to the moral argument.  UPB and the NAP mean nothing in practice without empathy.  I think it is deontological to be the change you want to see, not consequential. 


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#29
Josh F

Josh F

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  • 754 posts

I sincerely disagree with your arguments.  The home analogy isn't apt, and I am not sure you understand that empathy is essential to the NAP.  The NAP, and objective morality, don't matter to sociopaths (those who lack empathy).  Morality, and not as rhetoric, but morality in practice is only appealing to empathetic human beings.  The only way to inspire empathy is with empathy, there are no other solutions.  You can't neglect, scream at, or debate someone into compassion. 

 

My goal is to continue being empathetic even i it is not successful.  I might seize engaging a non-empathetic or abusive person, but my approach next time with the next person will till be empathy. 

 

I am curious, when you engage in online discourse do you practice empathy?  I myself have a history of being fairly abusive during online conversations.  When I am not being abusive, at my best, I was just being neutral and rational.  I never found either to be effective.  In one day of this technique I think I changed more opinions than my entire history online. And resisting my temptations to be frustrated is excellent practice in my own life for being an empathetic person, the reward goes both ways.

 

And I admit, I am not doing a perfect job of it myself, I thin I am reverting into being argumentative still.


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#31
Mike Fleming

Mike Fleming

    Atheist Anarchist Determinist


  • 375 posts

 

I am curious, when you engage in online discourse do you practice empathy?  I myself have a history of being fairly abusive during online conversations.  When I am not being abusive, at my best, I was just being neutral and rational.  I never found either to be effective.  In one day of this technique I think I changed more opinions than my entire history online. And resisting my temptations to be frustrated is excellent practice in my own life for being an empathetic person, the reward goes both ways.

 

And I admit, I am not doing a perfect job of it myself, I thin I am reverting into being argumentative still.

 

I'm same, I can get argumentative and slightly abusive as well.   It's just so easy a mode to slip into.  I really have to practice not doing it.  And at the moment, whenever a debate even begins to approach that stage I just have to walk away from the thread (figuratively speaking) and just not look at it any more.  Because I know my hackles will raise and I'll get too worked up about it and feel I need to "win" the argument.


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#32
Josh F

Josh F

    Thought Terrorist


  • 754 posts

I think the home analogy is indeed apt. And there are literally infinite other examples where the means to an end are quite different than the end. In fact, the entire concept of emergent properties has to do with the fact that things can have properties completely unpredictable from any of the parts that make them up. There is not a parts/whole symmetrical correlation where what makes up something is the same as the endpoint.

 

Or here is an even simpler example. There are many people who were abused that, rather than become abusers, became extra sensitive and may even have more empathy for people who are suffering than those who did not go through that or than they themselves would have had without that experience. How can you explain that if you say one must empathize in order to lead to empathy on the other end?

 

This would be impossible, there is no way to learn empathy without being treated empathetically or seeing other people treating each other empathetically.  Your example's to the contrary, just for edification are that people watching abuse on TV will suddenly become empathetic.  I don't think there is evidence or logic behind that assertion, so if there is some evidence feel free to show me.  Your next comment, that children are inherently empathetic and that it has to be beaten out of them, is a more valid argument, so I will address that point.

 

In your experience, have you ever abused someone into empathy?  In your experience have you ever reasoned someone who was unempathetic into empathy without being empathetic towards them? 


My statements earlier were about a society based on the NAP. The NAP does not appeal to sociopaths. But if you want a society based on the NAP, you have to wrestle with the question of how to maintain that as the social norm when there are sociopaths within it. Is the answer to simply empathize with the sociopaths? No, that is not enough. And that is my point. A society based on the NAP requires more than just a rule to empathize with everyone. It needs a strategy for what you do in response to those who don't respond to empathy.

 

I concur, and I didn't mean to imply that you can't defend yourself from abusive people.  The point was that when engaging the anonymous masses, the proceed with empathy is the only chance of inspiring the empathy necessary to adopt the non-aggression principle.  Empathy will not work on everyone, but it is still the only tool which will work. 

 

I completely respect your plan to empathize with people. And I am not saying that you shouldn't do that. I'm only saying that isn't some overall grand solution. And that's the tone I was getting from the OP was that, after a few conversations went well due to empathy and curiosity, it was interpreted as a grand solution. It isn't a grand solution. But I agree it is a very important ingredient. If I was misreading things and you didn't mean to put it forth as a great overall solution, then my apologies.

 

It would be helpful to understand an alternative.  I mentioned before, you can be abusive, neutral, or empathetic.  I am sure you're not advocating abuse, that would be absurd, so I am going to assume you're advocating neutral?  Neutral would include, for example, the way you're engaging me now.  You're not hostile, but you're not particularly empathetic, it is just sort of like a math or logic problem.  This is the best approach for reason and logic and science, no question.  The ideal of the NAP is not a scientific principle, it isn't based on empiricism.  It is proven through logical syllogism, unquestionable, however it is not adopted because of logical syllogism.  If the NAP is rationally irrefutable, it doesn't mean people will adopt it right?  Morality is about human behavior, in this context it is about universally preferable behavior.  This gets into a really important thing that Stef talks about in his book on UPB, that you can not derive an ought from an is, a concept originated by Hume.  Are you familiar with the argument?

(For anyone who isn't, this is a brief explanation http://en.wikipedia....em#Implications)

 

The idea is that no amount of reasoning about what is morally true will determine how people ought to behave.  This philosophical argument gives ground to why neutral approaches to morality don't inspire moral behavior. 

 

The tone I take online really depends on the setting. For example, I come to FDR for philosophy so I tend to take a rational, debate approach a lot. One of the reasons I enjoy FDR is that there are people here who value rational debate and I enjoy that. However, if someone even here is sharing a very personal issue that isn't really a debate topic, I will focus more on empathy and the feeling side of things.

 

Excellent, so here you can see how in the context of something intimate or personal, empathy is the best way to help the other person.  Do you think violent or abusive behavor is personal?  I guess that is sort of an insulting and obvious question, of course it is, no one abuses someone out of reason, right?     


I really do agree that empathizing as you did was a great thing to do. And I'm not surprised it improved your results. I wasn't trying to knock doing that. I was just trying to put it in context. I don't think you'll always get such a great response to empathizing where it opens them up to changing their mind. And when that happens, there are other approaches to try. And sometimes nothing works and that is what anyone interested in changing minds is up against. So definitely keep empathizing and trying that approach. I will try it more often too. And there is no reason to not empathize with someone, as long as we don't expect it to always be the magic bullet.

 

I would really love some examples of you actually changing someone's opinion using reason when they were previously opposed to you?  I know it is possible, so I'm not arguing otherwise. 

 

I would then ask for the context of the debate itself.  Like if I start a dialogue with you where we both agree whoever argument is most reasonable will win out, assuming we're both good on our word, it would be reasonable to believe you or I would change our minds according to the preponderance of logic. 

 

However, when dealing with human behavior, anyone advocating an irrational moral philosophy is not agreeing to allow the preponderance of logic affect him in the first place.  The very nature of someone trying to justify immoral behavior is beyond neutral or rational, it is abusive and defensive.  That is why even millions of rational proofs won't help people adopt the non-aggression principle when they're own actions and beliefs are in opposition to it.  Now, if you find some really empathetic guy who doesn't know anything about the NAP, it is incredibly easy for them to concede.  My girlfriend is a good example.  I say stealing is wrong, even when the government does it, and she thinks, yeah okay that makes sense and onward we move.  She is a moral and empathetic person.  People attacking the NAP are not ignorant of the position, they're emotionally opposed to it.  Appealing to logic will always only result in more defensive behavior, more arguments, more abuse.  Haven't you noticed this pattern?

 

 

I'm same, I can get argumentative and slightly abusive as well.   It's just so easy a mode to slip into.  I really have to practice not doing it.  And at the moment, whenever a debate even begins to approach that stage I just have to walk away from the thread (figuratively speaking) and just not look at it any more.  Because I know my hackles will raise and I'll get too worked up about it and feel I need to "win" the argument.

 

This was how we learned to respond to people challenging our thinking, right?  I know I was.  Whenever I disagreed with my dad, logic only went so far, and eventually you hit a wall like "because I said so" or "because you live under my roof" or "because I'm your father"  The thing, for me, that helps me refrain from being abusive is to think the thought "I am being just like my father right now."  Which for me personally is a repulsive idea, and I grew up being compared to him (since we look and sound so alike) and it resonates deeply. 


Oh, and yes, I have seen the movie The Game (which I love).  Unfortunately it is one of those things you can only watch once, right?  lol.

 

EDIT:

Just reviewing my replies in this discussion, and I wanted to make a note that "And there are literally infinite other examples where the means to an end are quite different than the end." is consequentialism. 


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#33
Guest_darkskyabove_*

Guest_darkskyabove_*

Having the right tool for job. Easy to figure when switching from nails to screws. Not so easy when dealing with people.

 

I would propose having the best tools possible: clean, honed, and well-lubricated.

 

Clean: solid logical foundation of clear principles.

 

Honed: principles that have been sharpened (tested) against counter-arguments.

 

Well-lubricated: big dose of empathy. (As in the 55-gal drum.)

 

And that still won't always be enough. It is also worth staying aware that having a fancy tool box might tend to make everyone look like a project to be "worked" on.


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#35
Josh F

Josh F

    Thought Terrorist


  • 754 posts
Finally, I found it ironic that right under your response to me, you responded to Mike Fleming with a story about how you learned not to be abusive by seeing the contrary example from your father. So right there you have a great example of learning to care for others by being modeled the opposite and disliking that model. Your father didn't teach you how to empathize. You yourself disliked his non-empathetic example and decided to be different than him. This is yet another example of how empathy can come quite indirectly or even from experiences marked by the opposite of empathy.

My Dad didn't teach me empathy by abusing me.  That is an unkind distortion of my point.  My empathy isn't because of my father, it is in spite of him.  My frustration, anger, come from my Dad.  And the times I covered those emotions trying to be dispassionate or rational or super articulate while engaging in go nowhere arguments were also because of my father. 

 

 

 

you learned not to be abusive by seeing the contrary example from your father.

 

Your father didn't teach you how to empathize.

 

I hope you understand these contradictions aren't rational or neutral.  I find them telling.  Your desire to be right comes even at the cost of trying to hurt me (trying to use my own history against me) , distort my arguments, and then contradicting yourself to avoid responsibility.  Do you understand the underlying emotions going on here? 


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