So, what is the Golden Rule of empathy? It is said that Jesus of Nazareth (Holy Bible, Matthew 7:12) first quoted and wrote the empathy laws. This can also be considered an ethic of reciprocity according to different religions.
The adage might appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct in a scenario:
- Treat others as you would like others to treat you
- Do NOT treat others in ways that you would NOT like to be treated
- What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself
Psychologically, all the “laws” require empathy. First, you must identify your own behaviors and thoughts, before applying judgement. Otherwise, your own mind does not have the ability to accept new behaviors and ideas. Let us look at some scenarios where these laws apply in everyday life.
A Young Man Gets Bullied On the City Bus
A disabled young man gets teased and pushed into a seat by another rider. How does one demonstrate empathy? First, the brain must assess the danger to yourself and others around you. You then can remember to clearly work through your emotions. If the brain becomes too sympathetic or fearful in the immediate situation, the feeling of the fight-or-flight response can trigger.
Dr. Robert Glatter told LiveScience.com, “…. If too much adrenaline floods into the heart, it can lead to the failure of that organ and death.” By being empathetic from the beginning of the initial situation, you acknowledge the situation by knowing how bullying feels. The rest of the interaction can be focused on and responded to if needed.
Overwhelmed and Exhausted Co-Worker
A co-worker in a different department has been tasked with sorting through old paper files to get them ready for disposal. Word is, she will need to come in over the weekend to finish. While you do not do the same kind of work, your empathetic to her plight.
On Saturday, you drop by with some sandwiches and a cold drink. By offering to help, the co-worker feels more like a team which creates longer relationships. Poet John McGrath quoted, “A champion team will always build a team of champions.”
Bad Complaint from a Customer
You run a small bakery store. One early morning, a woman comes in and is irate that your employee had used blue lettering instead of red which caused the party to be ruined. Using empathy immediately allows you to focus on refunding and appeasing the customer. When you look at your employee, you realize she is extremely upset also.
She is trying not to cry. Your empathetic response is, “I’m so sorry that happened. I understand, I’ve had it happen a few times to me too.” This again shows your employee your relatable and level-headed, which makes you a better leader.
Friend Dealing with a Break-up
A close friend is going through a difficult break-up. Though your sympathetic side wants to be upset, this is an opportunity to show empathy. Your empathetic side can put aside your personal feelings towards her partner.
Part of being empathetic is checking your own judgement till later, allowing you to focus on her feelings instead. You give her a hug and listen attentively while she talks. Often, a person simply just needs a shoulder to cry on.
Empathy is a learned skill as is often tested to its limits. Practicing every day, keeps you and the ones around you in a calmer space. By using the Golden Rules of empathy, you show others that it is important to respect each other even when we cannot agree.