I frequently speak about empathy in action, when I am invited to speak about equity, diversity, and inclusion in different contexts, including planning, post-secondary education, governance, research, and systems change.

What can empathy in action look like?

Empathy in action can involve:

  • building a critical awareness of dominant culture and its impact on our behaviours.
  • recognizing how your own privilege affects our behaviours.
  • listening attentively to different perspectives and staying outside of the realm of judgment.

Empathy is a skill that can be developed into behaviours with practice.

Empathy in action requires:

  • communicating your emotions, which also requires learning to name your emotions.
  • reflecting on assumptions and behaviours – both your own and others’.
  • creating spaces where people can take their own time to bring their authentic selves to that space, rather than rushing them to do so, or even worse, outing them.
  • building a growth mindset, to change our own behaviours.

Practicing empathy in action recognizes that there is more than one story to a person and to an experience. Empathy in action is a launching point for self-education and for practicing allyship.

By Leela Viswanathan

Artwork by Leela Viswanathan