We hear a lot about happiness these days. A focus on searching for happiness, doing things that will help us to be happy, finding ways to avoid unhappiness. This interest began decades ago and got us thinking about ourselves and not really thinking about other people. In some ways this could be seen as the opposite of empathy. By focusing inwardly rather than thinking of others we can find it difficult to show empathy. Worse still this hasn't necessarily made us happy.
In recent years though we've started to hear about ways that happiness can come about through our connections with others. By sharing experiences with others, by tapping into our social needs, by doing things to help others and by appreciating the people who share our lives we may even become happier ourselves. We can feel more rich in our own lives. Our lives can be more fulfilling, more meaningful and purposeful.
So the age of Introspection, as Krznaric calls it in his book "A Handbook for Revolution.Empathy" , should now be over. We should be ready to move into what he calls an Age of Outrespection. He draws on Socrates' statement over 2,000 years ago who apparently said that the best route to living wisely and well was to "know thyself". Krznaric argues that by looking outside of ourselves and just looking inwardly we can get to know ourselves best. By learning about ways of living and cultures other than our own we can actually deepen our life experience. He sees empathy as core to this approach.
He also acknowledges that empathy is not necessarily the total solution. It certainly brings with it some challenges. For example, we need to think about it carefully and consider questions such as whether there can be too much empathy and in what circumstances empathy might be used to manipulate people. He also thinks we need to explore whether we really can learn to be more empathic. If so,what does it take?