Empathy is a Guide to Doing the Right Thing - Even When it Costs You
Many years ago, I happened to see a small segment of a movie my kids were watching on TV. The movie was Ruthless People with Judge Reinhold starring as a super-aggressive stereo salesman. I don't recall anything about that movie other than this one scene. A teenager comes waltzing into an electronics store looking for stereo speakers. Playing air guitar as he delivers his pitch, Reinhold talks the kid into buying a set of speakers the size of the Washington Monument.
Just as the young man is about to write what is probably the biggest check he's ever written, a very pregnant girl comes over and says to him, "Honey, I'm hungry, can we go now?" Looking at these young soon-to-be parents, the stereo salesman takes kid back over to the cheapest speakers in the store. "Trust me, kid," he says, "these are just what you need."
That was empathy in action. The salesman stopped seeing the kid as a commission check with legs, and instead saw a human being with real world responsibilities coming down the road.
Empathy is often not the easiest choice to make (in the case of our salesman, it cost a big commission check), but you must consciously decide to overcome your own ego, ambition, and prejudice (the very word implies pre-judgment) to see the other person as a real live human being - not a commission check with legs, a lost soul to be saved, a strange race to be hated, or an employee to be ordered around.
Just a real live human being deserving of love and consideration. Same as you.