The Power of Empathy

What would the world look like if people were able and willing to empathize with each other more?

I ask you to consider this question, to dream about it, because I genuinely believe, from the bottom of my heart, that the world would be a much better place if people were a little more empathetic. I think more empathy would translate into less violence, poverty, and suffering.

Story by Teryn


I used to work at a youth crisis line here in the United States. One of my favourite things about working there was that I got to train the new crisis counsellors. Among the most important topics we covered during the training was the concept of empathy. When I first started working there, we had a licensed therapist who would come in and talk to the trainees about empathy. She would facilitate a conversation on the topic and then run through a few group exercises to demonstrate what empathy looks and sounds like. It was a great training session – people consistently told me that it was their favourite.

Sam Richards TEDx talk is a great way to start a conversation about empathy.

So you can imagine the panic that set in when I found out that this presenter would not be able to attend one of the upcoming training sessions and I had to do it instead. I had to plan an entirely different presentation and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything nearly as good. Knowing that I wouldn’t be very successful at explaining it on my own, I turned to the internet and stumbled upon a TEDx talk by sociologist Sam Richards on the subject of empathy. The description for the video read: Can two countries at war dare to empathize with one another? To allow a group of (mainly) Americans to understand — not approve of, but understand — the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent.

What would the world look like if people empathised with each other more?

I watched the video. It was deep. It made me think. I decided to take the video to the training sessions. It was the perfect way to start a conversation about empathy with the new volunteer crisis counsellors. Why? Because it was all about being able to see things through the eyes of someone you may disagree with. This is what being a crisis counsellor is all about –  being able to listen to and understand someone else’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.

And now that you’ve seen the video too, ask yourselves that same question again – what would the world look like if people were able and willing to empathise with each other more?