Learning a new language is difficult, but very rewarding. It is like lifting the veil on a new world previously closed off to you. That is what leading and engaging with empathy is meant to do – learning someone’s figurative language – allowing yourself to step into their world, their context, their experiences, their framing, what makes them them.
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. All I know is what I have words for.”
But while the true meaning of empathy is understanding someone else by ‘walking in their shoes’, the real outcome we should all desire is compassion. In opening yourself up to truly understanding someone else, it is almost impossible not to have appreciation for who they are, even if you don’t agree with them.