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Empathy | Charlottesville & Harvey

August 29, 2017

Imagine that you let me borrow your new car. You love your car. It’s beautiful.

I tell you I will return it to you the next day.

As I pull into your driveway the next day to drop your car off, you notice that the driver side is torn to shreds. The side mirror is hanging off, the door won’t shut all the way and there are dents and scratches all the way down.

Imagine I get out of the car and say nothing. Instead of talk I just walk to the passenger side of the car, which is still in pristine condition.

You follow me over and as your eyes see that this side of your car is in tact, I proudly say,

‘That banged up driver side isn’t your car. This nice clean passenger side is your car!’

You would probably be a little confused, and then you would be furious.

There’s a couple things wrong here obviously.

I didn’t address the fact that one side of your car is totaled.

I didn’t show any empathy towards how you were feeling about seeing your car in this condition. Even if the damage was not at all my fault, I still didn’t allow myself to feel what you were feeling.

By only talking about the ‘pretty side’ of the car, you probably feel like I’m not willing to help restore the broken down side.

I could have instead:

Stepped out of the car and apologized for what happened to your car under my watch, regardless if it was my fault or not.

Shown empathy and tried to understand the way you felt.

I could have said, ‘I got hit by another driver. Their insurance is covering the whole thing.’ Or, ‘I wasn’t paying attention and made a mistake while driving. My insurance will cover the repairs for you.’

I saw this picture yesterday, and for some reason it just irked me.


I don’t care who you voted for, or what side you’re on, or what your country of origin is. Please be careful with stuff like this. Yes the top photo is amazing and is a true testament to what the best part of America is… but it’s the best part, not the whole part.

There is another side that you can’t just ignore because a lot of people are doing a lot of good.

And just because you acknowledge the broken parts, doesn’t mean people are going to blame you for it. But if you ignore them, your silence allows someone else’s mind to fill the gaps.

Keep loving people. Keep growing in empathy. Keep your hearts and your eyes open.

All posts written by Jaymes Downer who is VP of Product at F&M. Follow him on Twitter or learn about his work history on LinkedIn

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