Defined Words: sonder
We love stories because they present us with characters that can think and feel like us. We especially enjoy stories in which the character is able to feel some emotion and we can sympathize and feel it too. Stories don’t only present characters; they offer a history and a series of events for the character to experience. With a character’s backstory, you can much more easily sympathize and cathart with them because you understand why they feel the way they do.
You are empathizing with the characters of stories and with more information; you can more accurately sympathize with them when the time comes. We enjoy stories in a series because they use already established characters allowing the audience to empathize more quickly since they don’t have to learn about new characters in each story.
Empathy is not an easy skill to master, though it is by no means impossible. It is a complex process of the brain and it is activated when you interact with anyone, though not always correctly. The most common flaw with our natural method of empathizing is forgetting our own selves. It is incredibly important to always remember that you, along with everyone else, have a limited perspective. You cannot possibly know what goes on in the head of someone else and vice versa. However, when empathy is practiced correctly, it can become solidified and soon automated, meaning it does not require your consciousness to activate.
The word sonder is used to describe the idea that every person around you has a life and thoughts as complex and deep as your own. Automating empathy is even more than that, though it is included. When your empathy becomes automated, you can see through the perspective of others and, more importantly, you can imagine how they see you.
Conversations can often be a strategic affair with both parties crafting their response with a specific intention in mind, though the intention isn’t always stated. When your empathy is automated, you can view yourself from their perspective and see who you are to them or anyone else.
Your empathy is not reserved for only humans. Empathizing with animals, especially ones that are smaller than you, explains much of their behavior. In reality, you’re huge compared with most of the animals you run into on a daily basis, namely bugs. You are a giant to them, which means the only reason they might attack you is as a last resort of self-defense.
Everyone is unique which means everyone is cool, but too often we feel the need to hide what makes us cool. We think “if only they knew me in this way…” while we continue to try and blend with the crowd. Empathizing with everyone around you allows you to see who you are presenting as you. It can help you reconcile the differences between how you see yourself versus how others see you. If there is something about yourself that you love, let other people know about it. Your love will be mirrored by your audience; you just need the confidence to share it.
When you can view yourself from other people’s perspectives, you realize how little their opinion of you actually matters. You have the ability to choose exactly the person you want to be because at the end of the day, you are stuck with yourself. Empathizing can also help you to relate to others in order to passions and not overload your audience with jargon.
The easiest way to tell if a person is not using empathy is when they cannot believe that someone else doesn’t know what they know. “You’ve never heard of that? Have you been living under a rock?” These people are unable to recognize that everyone is limited and the information that they see as obvious might be completely unknown to others.
We have all diversified and explored new niches when it comes to our interests and some of us have gone to the extreme in just a single niche. For example, most libraries have an entire section on WWII with new information coming out all the time. The authors that are still writing about WWII have explored so far into that niche that it’s likely they missed out on other niches. A WWII researcher might not be able to list 10 basketball players or name the races of the Horde or sing the lyrics to R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” but they know a lot more than you about WWII.
Automating empathy is not just seeing yourself from another perspective. It is seeing the world from the perspective of a stranger you pass in the street and wondering what is going on in their life. It is knowing that other people don’t know what you do meaning you can get away with more than you thought. But most importantly, it is knowing that everyone around you is constantly creating characters of the people they meet. Be the person you want to be knowing that your actions define the character that people are creating of you.