An old proverb says you can ‘t really understand another person ‘s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Concordia University associate professor of social work Julie Dodge, Ph.D., studies the application of this proverb to the modern world in the field of cultural empathy.
“Every day in the news we hear another story of violence that outrages us. It’s easy to pick a side,” she said. “It is much harder to actually listen to the stories of people who may face unique challenges in our society. Too often, we rush to blame.”
In her anticipated iBook, titled “‘But I Would ‘t Do That!’ Teaching Cultural Empathy,” Dodge suggests we often fail in our work with people of different backgrounds because we lack cultural empathy. As a society, especially within our health and human service professions, we still struggle to understand why another person behaves differently than we would.
Cultural empathy is defined as the ability to consider the thoughts or perspectives and feelings of another person given their cultural background – values, experiences, beliefs – and to communicate this understanding effectively.
Brain research shows we are all capable of expressing empathy; however, we have to choose to activate those empathy pathways in our brains. So how can we do this?
“One way is to stop, listen, reflect and ask for clarification – especially if you hear something with which you disagree,” Dodge said. “Listening to another person ‘s story, instead of arguing another perspective helps build understanding of why a person thinks and feels the way they do. And that results in a better understanding of differences.”
Larn more about cultural empathy.
Learn more about Concordia University’s College of Health and Human Services.
Contributed by Concordia University College of Health & Human Services.