Empathy: The Thing We All Have In Common?


Have you ever tried to have a discussion with somebody about a movie or TV show that you love, but they've never seen and have no interest in? It's pretty futile. There are no common points of reference. There are no shared, base tenets to fall back upon. There is no desire on the part of the listener to learn about what enthralls you. In fact, the only connection on this matter might be the fact that you both know what movies and TV shows are.


Have you ever tried to have a discussion with somebody about veganism when they're a confirmed carnivore and have no interest in it? It's pretty futile. There are no common points of reference. There are no shared base tenets to fall back upon. There is no desire on the part of the listener to learn about what is important to you. In fact, the only connection on this matter might be the fact that you both need to eat.


I've written previously about methods of influencing others to go vegan, and I've already made the point that having taught the subject, I'm well aware of the styles and methods necessary to persuade another. But this morning it suddenly occurred to me that there is an aspect of this understanding that I have excluded from my consideration: The currency of influence is values.


Without some level of shared values, any attempt at getting another to change their thinking or their actions will be a non-starter. I pondered this for a while with reference to what we eat, trying to discern what common value all humans may share.


If you are familiar with my blogs, you will know that I have previously assumed that the one thing we all share must be compassion; but time and again, that has been proved to be a very flawed assumption. I have found that many people, who would otherwise be regarded as very compassionate, reserved their compassion for humans alone.


Since compassion is simultaneously a value, an emotional response and an action, I had not managed to reach a more powerful imperative than that one to inform people's choices.


​Then today, I arrived at empathy.


It's obvious really. Like compassion, it is also a value, an emotional response and an action. Even more importantly, it is the trigger for compassion, which we may choose when we feel empathy for someone/something else.


Whilst I have been labouring under a false apprehension believing that everyone would feel compassion for animals, everybody has the ability to empathise, right?