I’ve spent my career studying empathy. It’s a vital first step in conflicts where both sides have dehumanised each other
Empathy is all about imagining other minds, appreciating that different people have different perspectives, and responding to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion. After a career studying autism and the nature of empathy, I see empathy as one of our most valuable natural resources. It has particular promise as an approach to conflict resolution, one that has advantages over viewing a problem through a chiefly military, economic or legal lens.
We can see this if we look at the Israel-Palestine conflict, where both communities have different views of the same historic period, both claim the same piece of land and both have valid emotional reactions to the conflict that must be acknowledged. I am not an expert in that dispute nor so naive to believe that there is a single, simple solution to it. But I do believe empathy can help.
When you lose empathy, you can act towards others with at best lack of interest or self-interest, and at worst cruelty