Thursday, October 26, 2006

Empathy Magnifiers

I went to a conference a few years ago on the use of psychological testing. And part of what I found so interesting about the speaker was his discussion of using psychological testing results as empathy magnifiers, as ways to deepen and expand our understanding and compassion for the client. It was really just a significant shift in perspective. Much of my training in psychological testing had been about dry (abeit important) stuff like reliability, validity, diagnostic implications, etc.

But empathy magnifiers? That was new. I've never thought about or approached the process of psychological testing the same way since.

I had a discussion with someone not so long ago about all of the darkness in the world. About how easy it is to fall into cynicism about it. About how easy it can be to see when things are petty, selfish, or "stupid."

Such an outlook can even have some truth to it (I once heard someone say that cynicism " the fine art of accurate perception"). Yet it comes at such a cost. To view the world in such a way is to allow ourselves to become cynical, to put blinders on or disregard much of what is true, good, and beautiful.

And then we spoke about how different it can be if we use these moments of cynicism to look more deeply, to see the reasons why. Perhaps the individual we're judging is reacting out of their own pain or fear. Perhaps they lack the skill in some area. Perhaps we ourselves are somehow part of the problem.

Such an outlook, I think, creates its own "empathy magnifier" for us. It keeps us human and compassionate. And, I think, happy.

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