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Role Reversal

by | Oct 3, 2011


No, I’m not talking about Chas Bono on Dancing With the Stars.

Dr. Richard Fine, a friend of mine, told me he was facilitating a Role Reversal Program at a senior living community this week. He said, “I’m going to ask my audience to pretend to switch feet, or hearts, or clothing with another attendee, and follow that with a discussion on how that changes your perspective.”

“What’s the purpose of this exercise,” I asked.

“Empathy. It’s all about placing yourself in the role of another. How does that impact your thoughts? Your actions? Your feelings?”

Here’s the etymology of the word empathy: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathEs, emotional, from em- + pathos, feelings, emotion.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.

Karen Cortell Reisman’s definition of empathy: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – an extension of Dr. Fine’s role reversal workshop this week.

Empathy is a powerful relationship-builder that can form the bedrock of sustainable careers. Empathy can also make life’s little challenges easier to deal with.


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