Sometimes I like to explore words. One word can unfurl such depths of meaning. This winter, in our Paratus community, we looked at interesting words like hygge and fredagsmys. At that time, we didn’t know that we would have so much time to spend indoors with our families over the next months. Another word we explored, pyt—a Danish word for pressing on through the messy—seems particularly well suited for these past few months.
But I’ve been thinking of an English word lately. It’s not an eclectic or novel word, but it’s oh so powerful: perspective. Whether in the enviable way that artists bring scenes alive on paper or in understanding a particular point of view, perspective gives meaning. From the Latin perspicere, which translates “to look through,” perspective allows us a glimpse through someone’s eyes.
These days, when I think on perspective, I think of looking but more so, listening. Looking with eyes to see and listening with ears to hear the experience of others. The idiom “don’t judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes” provides a picture of perspective, even if we usually can’t trade places with another person. But I’m trying to do what I can to gain perspective. One thing I can do is to listen with empathy.
“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler
Has someone ever told you, “I feel your pain”? Whether offered as a flippant metaphor or sincere outreach of empathy, the phrase may have roots in science. Neuroscientists discovered specific regions of the brain responsible for connecting with the feelings of others. Parents don’t need a neuroscientist to tell them about this remarkable capacity of the human brain—parents simply hurt when their children hurt.
But how do we extend this natural empathy of parents toward others outside our families? My children and I like to explore experiences, different books and movies together, a way for us to travel outside of our own home into another time period, culture, and set of footprints. It’s perspective shifting, and I love seeing their eyes light with new understanding.
How do you shift perspective and grow empathy in your family and work? If there’s anything that a peek outside our door tells us, it’s that our world needs bigger measures of both words. Looking, listening, doing good as we grow (no matter how old we are)…that’s what we’re about here at Paratus. Won’t you join us?