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(Grover 2016)

Strategic Empathy as a Tool of Statecraft
John Dale Grover
October 2016

"Empathy Defined 
Before one can attempt to determine the relevance of empathy as a tool of statecraft, the term empathy itself must be defined. While at first glance this may appear to be unnecessary semantics, a literature review of several major works on empathy quickly reveal that there is actually much debate on the definition in the many academic fields.2

 Karla McLaren, an empathy educator and researcher, mentions that several difficulties include considering whether empathy includes a sympathetic emotional response, sincere attempts to help others, or just the attempt to understand where another person is coming from regardless of intent or depth.3 Indeed the questions of sympathy, altruism, and also their related connotations, appear throughout the literature. 

For instance, Oxfam and United Nations adviser Roman Krznaric has written that empathy is not the same thing as sympathy and, although it is altruistic, it often gets associated with vague, fluffy, upbeat feelings that distract from his view of empathy as an ideal that leads to positive actions.4 

Finally, all of these issues are visited repeatedly by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie, the editors of one of the most up-to-date compilations of philosophical and psychological research and views on empathy"

"To demonstrate the difficulty in pinning down what exactly empathy is, several definitions and their different characteristics are listed below.

(McLaren, The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill,)
[Empathy is] “a social and emotional skill that helps us feel and understand the emotions, circumstances, intentions, thoughts, and needs of others, such that we can offer sensitive, perceptive, and appropriate communication and support.”8   

 Defining Characteristics
  • Social Skill
  • Emotional Skill
  • A Tool of Understanding
  • Altruistic 
  • Sympathetic
  • Intentional and Sensitive

Matt Waldman
, “Strategic Empathy: The Afghanistan Intervention Shows Why The U.S. Must Empathize With Its 
“[E]mpathy: imagining or simulating another’s experience and perspective, in order to better understand them. Empathy, in this sense, is rational and cognitive. Is a tool for understanding the way another person thinks, feels, or perceives. It enables us to comprehend another’s mindset, driving emotions or outlook, without requiring us to share the other’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, or, indeed, approve of them.”  

 Defining Characteristics
  • Imaginative
  •  Rational and Cognitive
  •  A Tool of Understanding 
  •  Not Sympathetic 
  • Not Emotional 
  •  Intentional

Krznaric, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, x
“Empathy is, in fact, an ideal that has the power to both transform our lives and to bring about fundamental social change. Empathy can create a revolution… a revolution of human relationships… empathy is the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions. So empathy is distinct from expressions of sympathy- such as pity or feeling sorry for somebody- because these do not involve trying to understand the other persons’ emotions or point of view. Nor is empathy the same as the Golden Rule… since this assumes your interests coincide with theirs.”10 

 Defining Characteristics
  • An ideal 
  • Revolutionary
  •  Social in Nature
  •  Imaginative 
  •  A Tool of Understanding 
  • Not Sympathetic 
  •  Not the Golden Rule 
  •  Intentional 

“[E]mpathy is a complex imaginative process in which an observer simulates another person’s situated psychological states while maintaining clear self-other differentiation.” 
Amy Coplan, “Understanding Empathy: Its Features and Effects,” in Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, ed.

 Defining Characteristics
  • Imaginative 
  • A Tool of Understanding
  •  Intentional 
  • Observation with Distinction from Self"

"I will define strategic empathy as a mental tool of understanding that gathers information on another actor with the sincere goal of completely understanding them and any situation through their eyes such that one can respond with perception in the advancement of the national interest."
John Dale Grover