This special episode invites you to take part in our community challenge called ’30 Stories of Empathy’.”

You want to make empathy and compassion a habit.

The challenge: How it works

The #30storiesofempathy challenge is a 30-day challenge to genuinely listen to, and collect a story from one person every day while actively practicing compassion and non-judgment, until empathy becomes your habit. That one person must be someone who is different from you, whether in experience, perspective, background, or opinion.

Notice that the call to action here is not to TALK to the other person, but to LISTEN.

The mechanics are super simple:

  • Interact with 1 person who’s different from you (in experience, background, perspective, opinion, gender, age, etc)
  • Listen to him/her + collect a story in an effort to understand him/her better (remember: listen with empathy and compassion, listen to understand, not to reply)
  • Thank the person
  • Document your insights. You can do so privately in a journal, or, if you decide to share it online, our official hashtag is #30storiesofempathy. You can also tag us on Instagram: @thepurposefulcreative.

Who should I talk to? The 30 people can be…

A person you disagree with, the security personnel in the mall, your Uber driver, your 15-year-old cousin, the waitress at your favorite restaurant, a street stall vendor, someone on the bus or the train, your former professor, someone from a different religion, someone who grew up in a different province or state, a former high school classmate, your transgender friend, or maybe, if you’re up for it, your seemingly apathetic co-worker who you don’t get along with.

What topics should I talk about?

There are also different questions you can ask them, but make sure to ask questions that ellicit stories, not debates.

For example:

  • “How is the experience of being a _____?”
  • “Why are you so passionate about the issue of ____?”
  • “Can you tell me more about how you became a ____?”
  • “Why do you believe in ___?”
  • FOR MORE PROMPTS/IDEAS, sign up for the community list in the form below.

How long should the conversation be?

For as long as you can learn something new! Your conversation can go for 5 quick minutes, or you can invite them for lunch or coffee. You can also reach out to people online, but try to have as much in-person interactions as you can.

When should I start?

Any time in February — we’re starting as early as February 2. We’ll do the challenge until March to give people time to catch up. But if you read this way beyond March 2017, please feel free to carry it on and still do it.

How do I start? First step: Sign up below


Very Important: Empathy Guidelines for Engaging Any Person

  1. Let your default question be, “Why is that?”
    • Another rephrasing is, “Can you tell me more about that?” This encourages the other person to tell a story. Even when you think you know the answer, ask WHY. Let the answers surprise you.
  2. Listen to understand, not to reply.
    • Again this challenge is built on the act of listening, not talking, or convincing, or debating. When the other person talks, listen actively, instead of thinking about what you’re going to say back. Genuinely be interested in what they’re saying. That means get off your phone!
  3. Don’t interject your own opinions.
    • Remember, this challenge is not about you. Leave your assumptions at the door. One of the biggest enemies of empathy is the past experience, knowledge, and pre-conceived notions and assumptions of the person asking the question. This is often called, “The Curse of Knowledge” — which states that, once you know something, it’s hard to think from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know it. Often, a person will tell us their story, and we hurriedly tell them about how WE think they should go about it, or what WE know to be true. How many well-meaning people have you seen trying to cram facts down other people’s throats? Has it ever worked? … My point exactly.
    • If The Curse Of Knowledge is empathy’s biggest enemies, on the other hand, silence is one of the best empathy tools.
  4. And lastly, say thank you to the person who you interact with.
    • You can say, “Hey, thanks for sharing that with me. I’m glad you did.” Simple as that. No wise conclusions, no deep lessons learned, just a simple thank you.

More awesome resources on empathy:

Brene Brown on empathy: Will help you avoid the ‘At least’ trap

The ‘Shadow A Student’ Challenge: GREAT insights on really, really observing without judgment. This is a bit more of an advanced empathy exercise

The story behind the challenge

Especially whenever I’m online, and I see way too many people engage in comment wars that mostly end with rash words, or maybe even worse, one person saying, “Well you have your opinion and I don’t share it. Let’s agree to disagree.”

Which then leads to people… getting scared to take a stand, in fear of shaking things up, offending somebody, or starting a comment thread that gets inflammatory. But let me be clear here.

The saying “If you don’t have anything good to say, just don’t say it” is very, very different from
“Don’t stand up for what believe in because you might rock the boat.”

I refuse to believe that silence is the answer. Nor is the answer to just keep your conversations among your friends who already agree with you and share your sentiments.

I’m currently struggling with being brave about standing up for my values and what I believe in, but doing it from a place of empathy and compassion. How do you do that?

How do you fiercely stand up for what you believe in, but seek to understand what you don’t know?

It’s a daily struggle, and I’m still figuring things out.

Which is precisely why I felt so compelled to start this empathy challenge. I designed this for myself, so that I may commit to practicing it everyday, and I designed it for my friends who want to do the same thing. And I’m hoping you can share in this journey with me, with us. Let’s make this a community commitment to practice empathy everyday.

Just imagine, if 10 of us participate, then that’s 300 attempts at empathy. That’s 300 stories and compassionate connections made with 300 human people. And if 100 of us participate? That’s 3000 attempts, stories, and human beings.

I know that this challenge is not a direct solution to everything that’s happening around us. But I’d like to believe that having 10, 20, 30 people really commit to practicing compassion and empathy for 30 straight days, in a mindful effort to make it a lifelong habit — to have 10, 20, or 30 people shape themselves to choose compassion in the face of fear…

I have to believe that that will make a difference.

Our goal is to gather 100 iTunes reviews!

Think we can make it? I think we can, but we gotta make this a team effort! Here’s how you can help:

Here are some of the awesome reviews we’ve received so far:


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