To Understand Others, We Need to Walk In Their Shoes

Philosopher Roman Krznaric believes there are few ills that can’t be solved with empathy – and he’s created a mobile Empathy Museum to prove it.

This September, the world’s first Empathy Museum dedicated to helping visitors develop the skill of putting themselves in others’ shoes will be opened.

The museum is the brainchild of the contemporary philosopher and empathy expert Roman Krznaric.

Krznaric has lost faith in the old model of changing society through parties and politics and laws.

“Empathy has this amazing power for social change,” he explains. “We need to take empathy out of the realm of psychology and not only into everyday relations but also into culture.”

So to bring it to everyday life he is launching the world’s first Empathy Museum, in the UK in late 2015 and will then be travelling to Australia and other countries.

Amongst the unusual exhibitions will be a human library, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation – maybe a Sikh teenager, an unhappy investment banker an immigrant or a gay father. In other words, the kind of people you may not get to meet in everyday life.

The Empathy Museum is an exciting social change project that has already taken its first steps. In January 2014 Krznaric launchedthe world’s first online Empathy Library, where you can find novels, children’s books, feature films and video shorts all about empathy.

“I have learned that empathy is the best glue for bonding a family together and forging the human relationships that make life worth living.”

Empathy is vital to healthy human relationships. It is the ability to understand others, but it seems to have been sidelined in the past decades, while we have focused on a hyper-individualistic, consumerist race to serve ourselves whatever the cost to others. So Krznaric, along with a whole school of social and cultural thinkers, believes that we should deploy empathy to sort out the mess we’re in.

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.” Barack Obama

The latest neuroscience research reveals that 98% of us have the ability to empathise, but few of us put our full empathic potential to use.

Find about the Empathy Museum here

Image source Kate Raworth Photography