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Author Explores The Importance Of Increasing Empathy In Our Society

Empathy is one of those values that we’re taught as children.  It’s the idea of imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes and using that sense as a guide for how to treat other people.

Empathy is sometimes easier said than done, especially as we get older.  In the end, what difference does empathy make in the grand scheme of things and how can we reconnect to it?  Writer Roman Krznaric sets out to explore the concept of empathy in a new book, called Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It.

Krznaric  speaks with Lake Effect’s Dan Harmon about where he sees empathy reflected in society today.

"I’m sorry to say that empathy in America is in free fall. There's great evidence showing that empathy levels have dropped by about fifty percent in the last three decades, the steepest decline in the last ten years," Krznaric says. "And at the same time we're seeing a rise in narcissism and online abuse, particularly in the digital world. Of course it's really difficult to measure things like empathy, but all the evidence is showing that we are becoming more and more selfish and individualistic."

Although the statistics show a decrease in empathy, Krznaric believes there are many ways to make people attentive of their own empathy levels and improving them simply with active listening and understanding.

"I think there's always hope. And there's a great piece of research in psychology- it's called contact theory," he says. "Basically the idea is if you bring together people from different backgrounds, whether it's black or white, Israeli or Palestinians, and you bring together for conversations and conditions of rough 94% of cases, you create more empathy and understanding and challenge stereotypes and prejudices."

Roman Krznaric’s is a founding faculty member of the School of Life in London, and advisor to organizations such as Oxfam and the United Nations. His latest project is founding the touring Empathy Museum, which is planned to launch sometime this year.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.
Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.