Storytelling and Empathy

Empathy is the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand him better; intellectual identification of oneself with another. Where no empathy exists, conflict breeds.

Good storytellers are, among other things, empathetic. All good storytellers, in whatever media, are first keen observers of the world around them. They see nuance and story in the small details of life, and they possess the skills to convey these observations in compelling ways.

All good storytellers, then, do not see the world in a kind of solipsistic way but rather have the ability to slow down and see things from other points of view, and more importantly, from another person’s particular point of view. In fact, learning the language and the tools of filmmakers and other visual communicators can teach young people empathy.

There are three primal components to the experience of media—what we see, what we hear, and what we feel….All three together help develop empathy toward and a connection with the character of a story, which informs children’s social and emotional development —certainly much has been written about empathy and its correlation with high emotional intelligence.

Summing-up: Empathy is created through storytelling. Therefore, we must tell stories. Both our own stories and the stories of others. Both true and fictional stories. But most importantly, like the best storytellers, we must make these stories universal in their appeal. And make them from our heart. “You and I may not be alike, but now I understand you.  And I think you’d understand me, too, if I told you my story.”

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