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Brené Brown on Choosing Empathy

Things you might not have seen. But should.

There is so much information swirling around us, across multiple screens and coming from hundreds of sources. It’s not possible (or even healthy) to try to take in everything. Although we often try to take it all in on the off chance that we will capture the one great nugget, in the end we usually end up with a headache. That’s where ICYMI — in case you missed it — comes in.

Each week we’ll showcase something we think is worth spending a few extra minutes with. It may be a story, an idea, some news.

This week we want to make sure you see this RSA Short, featuring author and University of Houston researcher Brené Brown discussing empathy, originally published in December, 2013.

In this engaging animated short film Brown tells us it’s not necessary to fix someone’s problems, or to try to inject humor into a difficult situation. What’s important is to offer caring, to listen, to try to understand another person’s pain and ultimately to forge a connection. As Brown points out, “Rarely can a response make something better. What  makes something better is connection.”

Too often our first reaction when faced with someone’s pain is to be sympathetic and try to make them feel better. However, sympathy is not about connecting, it’s about looking for silver linings, and could ultimately make them feel worse.

Choosing empathy over sympathy means adopting the following attributes, first described by Theresa Wiseman:

  • seeing the world through another’s eyes,
  • being non-judgmental,
  • trying to understand another person’s feelings and then
  • communicating that understanding.

And that’s when you will truly connect.



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