We recently announced a new product collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center to create a colorful boxed set of 30 science-based practices for a meaningful life.
One of the things that I admire most about the Greater Good Science Center is their dedication to surfacing the science behind a flourishing and compassionate society.
This is especially important now. Whenever I look at the headlines, it seems like the world is getting more and more divided. People are further solidifying the edges of their identities and the tribes they identify with. I worry that it’s a downward spiral — the less people feel they have in common, the less likely they are to be kind or generous, which fosters even more negativity — and the cycle continues.
The good news is, the opposite is also true. The more we feel a shared identity with others, the more likely we are to be kind and generous to them — which in turn makes us feel a greater sense of connection and belonging. The cycle can be beautiful and virtuous, instead of fearful and hateful.
To help us understand the science behind this, we can turn to the Shared Identity practice, one of 30 practices in the Greater Good Toolkit.
Along with the research, the practice outlines a practical exercise to help foster empathy and connection. Here is a summarized excerpt:
- Think of a person who seems to be different from you in every way you can imagine.
- Make a list of all of the things that you most likely share in common with this person. Perhaps you both work for the same company or go to the same school?
- Review this list of commonalities. Does it make you see this person in a new light? Instead of viewing this person as unfamiliar or as a member of an out-group, try to see this person as an individual, one whose tastes and experiences might overlap with yours.
- Repeat this exercise whenever you meet someone who initially seems different from you, with whom you have a conflict, or who makes you feel uncomfortable.
While simple in practice, the science behind it is powerful.
In a 2008 study on empathy that is referenced in the practice, researchers found that: “Participants who reported feeling a greater sense of connection to other people, regardless of group distinctions, and to the natural world at large also reported less egocentricity, more concern for others, and less interest in having power over others.”
The more we realize and appreciate how similar we actually are, the more we are able to treat others as we would want to be treated — with care and kindness.
We’re in this together,
P.S. We are offering 20% off of all Greater Good Toolkit pre-orders until this Thursday, when we officially begin production. Visit the Toolkit Pre-order page →
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