English as a second language second essay

Summary of the article “Sympathy and Empathy in Cross-Cultural Communication”

by Milton Bennett Milton J. Bennett, the author of the article Overcoming the Golden Rule: Sympathy and Empathy, asserts that the most of the world’s religions and, hence, cultures follow the basic truth embodied in the Golden Rule (do unto others as they do unto you). However, due to ethnic, cultural, religious, political, socioeconomic, etc. differences people differently understand and apply the Golden Rule. Furthermore, the author states that many people tend to deny these differences when it comes to value differences.

Bennett speaks of two distinct theories, single-reality and multiple-reality. Sympathy is the communication strategy assimilated with similarity and single-reality, while empathy – with difference and multiple-reality (p. 192). Single-reality is one worldview which is shared by all the people. It can be discovered with the help of philosophy, religion or objective observation. Thus, the core understanding of the Golden Rule is based on the notion of single-reality and an assumption that all people are similar. In terms of intercultural communication single-reality found its realization in such notions as “melting pot” and “ethnocentrism”. Bennett defines sympathy as a strategy closely related to the Golden Rule and its postulates; and to be precise, it means “the imaginative placing of ourselves in another person’s position” (p. 197).

Further in the article, the author draws a distinction between sympathy and empathy. The main difference between these two notions is “defined by whose perspective is being assumed” (Bennett 197). We imagine other people’s feelings from their own perspective, which relates to the notion of empathy, not sympathy. Depending on the circumstances, sympathy can be of two types, reminiscent and imaginative. However, notion of everyone’s uniqueness and different views on reality implies that process of communication and mutual understanding is almost impossible.

In cross-cultural communication empathy plays in important role, because it gives a possibility to understand another person as he/she really is and not as we tend to imagine them to be.  Hence, different experience of different people is accordingly understood and respected. Furthermore, such a point of view implies that we have to overcome the Golden Rule. Bennett offers a six-step procedure to replacing sympathy with empathy, which is more effective strategy in cross-cultural communication (p. 209). Thus, empathy is about realizing that somebody is different than me and I have to respect their different point of view and feelings involved.

Works Cited

Bennett, Milton. (Ed.). Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication: Selected Reading. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 1998, pp. 191

Letter 1

Dear Members of Puritan Church,

I am writing on behalf of the whole nation. One of my greatest concerns is your relationship with such religious society as Quakers, also known as Religious Society of Friends. I do understand your position and point of view regarding this social group. Moreover, I would like to reassure you that I respect your position. I hope that you will read my letter to the end and take into consideration my position and some good advice I am going to give you herein.

Nowadays life is not very simple and it never meant to be like that. However, after God we are partial musters of our destiny, so it is in our powers to make life better, at least to some extent. So, as I have mentioned above my real concern is your relationship and attitude to Quakers. I believe that changing your views and attitude to the members of this social group will make your life better as well as theirs.

As you might already know Quakers base there religious position on the belief that they can be closer to the God and Christ without mediators such as clergy. I understand your repulsion to such a point of view, but I also understand their point of view. If everyone tries to understand or, at least, to accept the other’s point of view, we would have much less conflicts, wars, cruelty, jealousy in the world, would not we?

Living according to the Golden Rule (sympathizing with others) is very good. However, there is an option to make life even better erasing borders which exist between you and Quakers. A better option to sympathy is empathy, which is the understanding other’s perspective from their point of view, not your own. I am not trying to convince you to change your religious views or to become a Quaker, surely not. I am sure that differences between you and Quakers should not serve as a source for conflicts, rather as a source for further mutual learning and getting to know each other better via process of emphasizing.

Letter 2

Dear Member of Religious Society of Friends,

I am writing on behalf of the whole nation. One of my greatest concerns is your relationship with Puritans (religious group some of you belonged to in the past). I do understand your position and point of view regarding this social group. Moreover, I would like to reassure you that I respect your position. I hope that you will read my letter to the end and take into consideration my position and some good advice I am going to give you herein.

Nowadays life is not very simple and it never meant to be like that. However, after God we are partial musters of our destiny, so it is in our powers to make life better, at least to some extent. Nobody knows this better than you.

So, as I have mentioned above my real concern is your relationship Puritans. I believe that changing your views and attitude to the members of this social group will make your life better as well as theirs. I am neither a great wise man, nor philosopher, or a governor to teach you how to live, but it is in my powers to give you simple advice, which might change all your life and make it better.

You know Puritans very well, because members of your church used to be ones of them. I know that your views are newer and different to those of Puritans. Their attitude to you shall to serve as an exemplar. Moreover, they might be not right in many assumptions regarding members of Society of Friends. However, the main point I am trying to make here is that there is a way to understanding, thus reducing the number of conflicts and quarrels between you and Puritans. If everyone tries to understand or, at least, to accept the other’s point of view, we would have much less conflicts, wars, cruelty, jealousy in the world, would not we?

Living according to the Golden Rule (sympathizing with others) is very good. However, there is an option to make life even better erasing borders which exist between you and Quakers. A better option to sympathy is empathy, which is the understanding other’s perspective from their point of view, not your own. I am not trying to convince you to change your religious views back and become a Puritan again, surely not. I am sure that differences between you and Puritans should not serve as a source for conflicts, rather as a source for further mutual learning and getting to know each other better via process of emphasizing.

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