What is Social Empathy?

People who know me will say that I have always been very a inclusive friend (often to a fault). If I were having a party, all of my friends would be invited, even if being in the same room made some of them uncomfortable, two people were fighting, or one group didn’t like the other. Once the invites were out, social convention made me realize that I may have made a bit of a faux pas, but my heart was always in the right place. I never wanted anyone to feel left out so I made sure (and I still do) that everyone got an invite. My desire to connect people has always been strong, even if it did sometimes make for awkward parties haha. Flash forward to today and as I attempted to build my brand for Kismet Consulting, I began searching for a way to describe what makes me want to constantly create connections between people and build inclusive environments. I randomly came across the term “social empathy” and a flashbulb went off in my head. That’s it! It was such a relief to be able to name it because now I can learn more about it and how I can use it to effect change.  Social empathy is the ability to “understand people by perceiving or experiencing their life situations and as a result gain insight into structural inequalities and disparities” (from SocialEmpathy.org). It is more than just “interpersonal empathy”, or putting yourself into someone else’s shoes (although I have that too), it’s the ability to empathize with entire groups or cultures of people and see the wonderful things that diversity adds to the world. It also makes me very vulnerable because when I see people who have been marginalized, it can affect me quite deeply and makes me want to learn more about their point of view, what they’ve been though, and how this treatment has shaped their interaction with the world. Mostly, it makes me want to just listen and learn with an open heart. As you can see, social empathy combined with high sensitivity means that I feel everything keenly and it makes me who I am, for better or for worse. I am currently reading Elizabeth Segal’s “Social Empathy” book (pictured above). As I learn more I will update this post or add another post to review the book, and I will continue to work to incorporate social empathy into my business and life. Thank you for reading! 

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