Connecting Empathy and Pain in Your Storytelling: Guest Post by Victoria Bardega

Victoria is a freelance editor, photographer and writer. Check out her work here:

As I skim through news headlines and observe the current cultural tensions, I realize empathy has become a foreign characteristic to our social norms. Vulnerability is being avoided rather than embraced; while people are being chained to stereotypes.

In a world of 7.125 billion people, we still feel forgotten, misunderstood or overlooked. One of my favorite literary critics, CS Lewis, said it best: “We read to know we are not alone.” I love this because it highlights a universal problem--people feel alone...all the time. However, the art of storytelling has the power to unify people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. We all have a journey to share; some carry miracles while others carry adversity.

In listening to one another, we invite empathy to impact the way we establish connection. Empathy is a shaping tool within community that breaks barriers, stirs up compassion and signifies a sense of mutual understanding with one another.

In addition to empathy, pain is an uncomfortable emotion to unpack; but it requires to be felt. What should we do when we’re faced with the demand to embrace our feelings as creatives? Let it out. Cry. Laugh. Craft something tangible for your soul to release the story into. Creativity stems out of a place of freedom.

It’s so easy to throw our feelings into a box and shove them away into the attic of our minds.

But once we bring our walls down and let people in, we are able to impact more and produce more good for the community. There is power in identifying with one another. By sharing the remnants of our past or current struggles, others, who may be experiencing a similar journey, are encouraged and empowered to move forward. It needs to take place in order for community-building and innovation to coexist. If you simply say yes to empathy and to pain, there is an audience waiting to hear the words that only you can speak.

Do You Make Decisions Off Of Consequences Or Appropriateness?

I only have a few more chapters left of “Originals” by Adam Grant and wanted to keep sharing some nuggets of gold that have been shaping my thinking. These two paragraphs below have given me new language and ways of thinking about risk.

Check it out:

According to eminent Stanford professor James March, when many of us make decision, we follow a logic of consequence: Which course of action will produce the best result? If you’re like Jackie Robinson and you consistently challenge the status quo, you operate differently, using instead a logic of appropriateness: What does a person like me do in a situation like this? Rather than looking outward in an attempt to predict the outcome, you turn inward to your identity. You base the decision on who you are or who you want to be.

When we use the logic of consequence, we can always find reasons not to take risks. The logic of appropriateness frees us up. We think less about what will guarantee the outcome we want, and act more on a visceral sense of what some like us ought to do.
— "Originals" by Adam Grant

The consequences always give you reasons not to take risks. What if this is the wrong mode of thinking? What if we first looked to our identity to guide our decisions instead of trying to figure all the details of how the thing you are dreaming to do could fail?

I have a question for you that has been nagging me. Think of a risk or a big decision in your life and for one moment, set aside the consequences. Ask yourself, “What does a person like me, do in a situation like this?”

It takes you having some sort of deep sense of your identity to operate like this but I think it could give us the courage we need at times to move forward in the face of risk.

I’m trying to shift my mindset from consequences to appropriateness. Maybe you should too.


An Excerpt on Originality From Adam Grant's Book "Originals"

“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. I've spent more than a decade studying this and it turns out to be far less difficult than I expected.

The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place. We’re driven to question defaults when we experience vuja de, the opposite of déjà vu. Déjà vu occurs when we encounter something new, but it feels as if we’ve seen it before. Vuja de is the reverse-- we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems. Without a vuja de event, Warby Parker wouldn't have existed. When the founders were sitting in the computer lab on the night the conjured up the company, they had spent a combined 60 years wearing glasses.  The product had always been unreasonably expensive. But until that moment, they had taken the status quo for granted, never questioning the default price.

"The thought never crossed my mind,” cofounder Dave Gilboa said. “I have always considered them a medical purchase. I naturally assumed that if the doctor was selling it to me there was some justification for the price.”

Having recently waited in line at the Apple Store to buy an iPhone, he found himself comparing the two products. Glasses had been a staple of human life for nearly a thousand years, and they’d hardly changed since his grandfather wore them. For the first time, Dave wondered why glasses had such a hefty price tag. Why did such a fundamentally simple product cost more than a complex smartphone.

Anyone could've asked those questions and arrived same answer that the Warby Parker squad did. Once they became curious about why the price was so steep, they begin doing some research on the eyewear industry. That's when they learned that it was dominated by Luxottica, a European company that had raked in over 7 billion in the previous year. “Understanding that the same company owned LensCrafters and Pro Vision, Ray-Ban and Oakley, and the licenses for Chanel and Prada prescription frames and sunglasses, all of a sudden it made sense to me why glasses were so expensive,” Dave says. “Nothing in the cost of goods justified the price.” Taking advantage of its monopoly status, Luxottica was charging 20 times the cost.The default wasn't inherently legitimate; it was a choice made of a group of people at a given company. And this meant that another group of people could make an alternate choice. “We could do things differently,” Dave suddenly understood. “It was a realization that we could control our own destiny, that we could control our own prices.

When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them. Before women gained the right to vote in America, many “Had never before considered their degraded status as anything but natural,” historian Jean Baker observes. As the suffrage movement gained momentum, “ a growing number of women were beginning to see that custom, religious, precept, and law were in fact man- made and therefore reversible.”