Practical ways to practice empathy

If I know anything about kindness, it’s only what I’ve learned from my many failures to show kindness to others. I’m pretty sure we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. So today I want to share a few things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Empathy is fundamentally about emotions. It’s the ability to understand and respond to another person’s emotions, and even to feel their emotions for yourself. Like most things, it’s a skill that requires constant refinement.

Let’s start with what NOT to do:

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Birthday Buzzcut

Six years ago, I was living in a tent a few miles outside downtown Austin, Texas. It may have looked like an ordinary WalMart camping tent. But it was actually U.S. government housing.

I was working for a federal program called Americorps, which sends young adults out to various places in the U.S. to do community service. I worked at a daycare in rural New Mexico and cleared a hiking trail in the middle of the Missouri forest. In Austin, my team and I were helping out at a recycling center. By day we sorted cans and bottles on a conveyor belt, at night we slept at a park. We cooked our dinners over a campfire and showered at a YMCA.

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