Empathy Development – a dead horse?

RockySue 9 May 2012 1

Many people consult the Conflict Resolution Service about neighbourhood disputes – over 500 enquiries every year, and increasing. Sometimes these callers require information, and CRS is able to refer them to a myriad of different agencies and organizations where they can get the information they need. This is part of CRS’s role in empowering people to resolve their own disputes if possible.

Conflict coaching sometimes involves trying to work the underdeveloped muscle called “empathy”. Sometimes callers have no idea why their neighbours behave as they do, and CRS often asks them questions that require them to put themselves in the shoes of their neighbour temporarily.

“If you were your neighbour, how would you want to be treated, or how would you respond in this situation?”

This applies whether one neighbour is asking for a huge tree to be removed entirely at the other’s expense, or whether the neighbour is a shiftworker who has objected to the volume of music blasted at his bedroom window during the daytime. Can they imagine what it would be like to be the other?

The empathy muscle is undeveloped or atrophied in some people, particularly those in high conflict. If CRS forms the opinion that a client has no empathy (by such give away lines as “I don’t give a .… about him/her”), then it will be a long and possibly fruitless labour. In this case, CRS tends to focus on the client’s self interest: how will it affect you if this dispute isn’t resolved? What will be the cost to you? What are the risks to you? What will you do to protect your interests?

The Conflict Resolution Service helps to develop healthy, cohesive neighbourhoods by encouraging people to develop the empathy muscle. Call 6162 4050 for free information and advice.

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One Response to Empathy Development – a dead horse?
One One 3:02 am 27 May 12

if your in public housing then don’t bother – CRS wont help you with a drug lab, or sex based hate crimes.

And what ever you do – DO NOT CALL THE POLICE – the people your complaint is about may have a special number that is only given to a paid informer.

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