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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Empathy

In Forge. More on Medium.

Tip: Take a moment for Pema Chödrön’s “just like me” practice.

Maybe you’ve been feeling a little detached lately. Hey, a year and a half in a pandemic will do that to a person. There’s a simple exercise that can help you feel more more grounded, more connected. It comes from Pema Chödrön’s Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World.

Chödrön, an author and Buddhist teacher, writes: “There’s a practice I like called ‘Just like me.’ You go to a public place and sit there and look around. Traffic jams are very good for this. You zero…


The power of saying ‘You don’t need to respond to this’

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Earlier this year, when I had Covid, people naturally checked in on me by text during my illness and recovery.

All of the messages came from a place of caring. But they all kind of stressed me out, too.

I loved receiving and reading the support, but I felt overwhelmed by the expectation, either implicit or explicit, that I respond. How was I feeling, people wanted to know? Too overwhelmed and tired to answer any texts, was the honest answer.

This went on for weeks. It wasn’t until after I felt better that I realized how to avoid inflicting this…


How to turn short-term compassion into long-term empathy

Woman riding train while wearing a face mask.
Woman riding train while wearing a face mask.
Photo: Brasil2/Getty Images

These days, I don’t have to scroll very long before coming across a long-winded rant about pandemic restrictions or a sunny vacation photo with nary a mask in sight. These are people I know, people who have shown me kindness and care through low times in my own life. Each time, the cognitive dissonance makes my head spin.

I recently came across a Twitter thread from the editor Sigrid Ellis that put words to what I’d been feeling: “Americans are really good at acute compassion, but pretty bad at chronic empathy,” the thread begins. “We, without question, haul strangers out…


Illustration of masked figures in a crowd.
Illustration of masked figures in a crowd.
Image: Ada daSilva/Getty Images

Whenever my instinct is to assume the worst—say, a driver cuts me off on the road or a friend takes three days to respond to my text even though I know she’s read my hilarious meme—it helps me to ask myself: What if the person is trying their best? When I believe they are, I stay out of judgment and my mind stops making up unhelpful stories that likely aren’t true.

But on Human Parts, Jane Park offers a question that goes a step further. …


Photo: Robin Gentry / EyeEm / Getty Images

The fact that about half of America’s voters voted for Donald Trump, whose racism is well-documented, should probably surprise no one.

And Black people are, by and large, not surprised. As for White people, Marley K. writes on ZORA, while now might feel like a moment to try to understand, to try to apologize, to try to justify, to try to be heard… maybe it’s really just a good time to quiet down:

I like to call weeks like these “I wish a motherfucker would” weeks. During times like these, Black folks cannot and will not tolerate the usual bullshit…


No one improves themselves in a vacuum

Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

The problem that Kenny Trinh was using self-help to solve was his shyness. The bigger problem was what it turned him into.

Trinh was a self-described “meek and shy” office worker who wanted to become a self-assured CEO type. “I wanted to be the smart, confident person in the room,” Trinh says, but “I was lacking in social skills and I didn’t believe in myself.” Looking for a transformation, he turned to self-help, reading a library of books on leadership and self-esteem. “I read them as if my life depended on it,” he says.

And according to Trinh, the strategy…


Consider who has the luxury of delegating

A photo of a woman working on her laptop on her living room floor with a stack of papers.
A photo of a woman working on her laptop on her living room floor with a stack of papers.
Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

A few months ago, the day before I was supposed to interview a productivity expert for a story, I realized he had never confirmed the time. I fired off an email and then spent a couple stressful hours waiting for him to reply, scrambling to move around my calendar and reschedule other interviews so I could stay flexible for this one.

The next day, minutes before our interview, he finally emailed me back, telling me he could do it now, if I had time. I scrambled to move things around to accommodate him.

After we hung up, I remembered a…


It’s not your job to fix their problems

Photo: DutcherAerials/Getty Images

When a friend is going through a hard time, you likely won’t be able to make the situation better.

It can be hard to accept, but you’ll both be better off if you do. Because then you can turn to what’s within your power: You might be helpless to change your friend’s situation, but you can help them survive. You can honor and validate their loss, bear witness to their experiences and pain, let them know that they are cared about and valued, and remind them that they are not alone. …


It’s a skill and a practice

One hand holding the chalk outline of another hand on a wall.
One hand holding the chalk outline of another hand on a wall.
Photo: japatino/Moment/Getty Images

Earlier this month, I got into a political disagreement with an old friend online. At that moment, the electoral outcomes of Super Tuesday loomed much larger in my mind than the fear of COVID-19 pandemic — truly, a different time. But each of these anxiety-inducing scenarios leads to a similar lesson: We have to look out for each other, in big ways and small. We have to make a habit of caring for the community — a practice, if you will, that takes practice.

Mindfulness is yesterday’s news. …


Social media isn’t making us less kind, but it makes kindness harder

Photo: fizkes/Getty Images

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, like many other Americans, I found myself spending hours each day discussing politics on social media. Although at the time it felt so urgent, I think it’s safe to say that nothing was actually gained from these exchanges between strangers and far-flung family members.

Part of the problem was that the fear of what might happen if the election went one way or the other made everything seem so urgent that there was no time to listen. …

Forge

A publication from Medium on personal development.

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