Experience

Therapist encourages empathy

Lilly Montero, @Lilly_Montero3

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LMC’s Speech Department in partnership with the Equity Speaker Series put on the event “Empathy in Our Lives.” The event was hosted by licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Lora Groppetti who discussed how to be empathetic in a society that struggles with being vulnerable.

“To understand and share the feelings of another [is empathy],” said Groppetti.

Groppetti admitted that being empathetic can be hard and she even pulled from her own personal experiences with both clients and family members, keeping the event conversational. Though her tone was light and informal, Groppetti didn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions, like why it’s hard for people to be empathetic and vulnerable.

“It’s hard for us to see people in those [dark] places… because we just want to make it better,” said Groppetti.

The audience responded well to the conversational style and during discussions and activities people raised their hands to share their thoughts and experiences.

“It’s scary to not say the wrong thing… so you just kind of watch their reactions,” said student Briana Orozco on why people may not be as empathetic as they could be.

Others pointed out it could be further complicated when people struggle to relate to one another.

“That’s where it’s hard, when the other person can’t relate to the situation,” said student Hassina Sarwari.

Groppetti reminded people that being empathetic had less to do with relating to a specific experience and more to do with the emotions of it. She also offered tips for becoming more vulnerable and empathetic began with the self and expanded to the broader community.

To start, the therapist suggested people treat themselves as they would treat others, to be kind and to practice positive self talk. From there she emphasized the importance of approaching others with an open mind and checking unconscious biases that could affect our judgement. Finally, Groppetti suggested moving from empathy to compassion, which entails more than just understanding another person’s feelings, but rather finding solutions to actually fix the problem.

“Can you imagine if we as a country could get together how much problem solving [could be accomplished]?” asked Groppetti.

Communications professors Marie Arcidiacono-Kaufman and Star Steers felt the event would be insightful considering both the debut of “Ajax” a play which discusses PTSD and their experiences in their own classrooms.

“Star and I see and hear a lot in our classes,” said Arcidiacono-Kaufman. “[We thought] empathy… we need to talk about this.”

Arcidiacono-Kaufman also felt empathy was a good topic for the Equity Speaker Series, considering that it’s “part of the equity value vision.”

Though Groppetti was unable to reach the technology portion of her presentation due to a time crunch, she commented, “It makes it a lot more difficult to because [of] technology — it’s decreased our ability to be empathetic.”

However, she hoped students left considering, “How can [empathy] relate to your community? How can it make change?”

Students can find more information on upcoming Equity Speaker Series events at https://www.losmedanos.edu/equity/event.aspx.

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Therapist encourages empathy