A Lesson in Empathy – Colin Borchardt

The topic of my empathy self intervention became clear to me on walk home from my organic chemistry lab this past Tuesday. Although my lab begins at 8am, I usually leave Baker in a pretty positive mood as that lab is the “hump” of my week. I know that once I’ve finished up that three hour block, the bulk of my school work is done for the week. With this all being said, I left that lab last Tuesday feeling far from accomplished and uplifted. During those three hours, I let one of my peers really annoy me, and I mean really annoy. As soon as we began that week’s experiment, unwarranted and seemingly desperate cries for help began to echo from across the laboratory. “Dr W!! Help!!,” or, “Dr W, does this look right?!?” After the first few comments rang out, my lab partner began to take notice and have dialogue between the two of us about this individual. A roll of the eyes and an annoyed “are you kidding me?,” or “just look at the f—— lab manual.” Not only were the comments irritating, but it seemed as if she was occupying all of the lab instructors time. It wasn’t until my walk home that I remembered the empathy intervention exercise for this class and how brutally I “otherized” my peer. Although I was fortunate enough to understand the experiment at the time, that doesn’t make me any better or more qualified that this individual. Further, I can think of countless times over the past couple of years in which I have felt completely helpless in a lab or a lecture. Countless times I’ve wanted to just scream “HELP!!”, but for some reason I still somehow felt superior to this individual. This experience taught me a valuable lesson in understanding situations from another’s perspective. I  have literally no clue what circumstances this individual was going through, but my nature automatically drew the conclusion that they were either lazy or dumb to understand the content of the lab, which I know is likely far from the truth. Later this week I will have an opportunity to better my attitude towards this peer when my lab section meets again. If she seems to be struggling yet again, I want to offer my help to her rather than making snarky comments from afar.

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