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10 Ways to Build Allyship Through Empathy

Learn how to start building new allies in your community

When I reflect back on my life and think of all the people I have met, I have mixed emotions. First, my brain seems to focus on the relationships that did not work out, and the friendships that fell apart. But with a bit of focus, and forgiveness, I realize that the good relationships and friendships outnumber the bad ones ten fold. 

When was the last time you really thought about all of the allies that you have created?

As you ponder this, you too might first gravitate towards thinking about relationships that didn’t work. But don’t stop there. Keep searching, and you will realize that you have likely created a wonderful network of friends and allies throughout the different stages of life, and possibly around the world. 

These friends, and allies that you have made, are more important now than ever.

As Arianna Huffington outlines in a post about the recent set of tragic events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, we can no longer deny that millions of our fellow citizens are effectively living in a different world — a different America.”

As the result of a long chain of systemic racial injustices that go back hundreds of years, it is time that we escalate a long-term conversation about solutions, and move from awareness to action. Part of this action involves true allyship.

In turbulent times, we need friends and allies to join forces to stand as one community. But this is often easier said than done. 

What I have learned about allyship, is the importance of putting yourself in the shoes of other people and empathizing with how they’re feeling and what they are going through. I definitely have not perfected this practice, but I can trace back all of my best allies to being empathetic. 

To dig further into the specific actions that have helped me to become more empathetic, I have identified ten things that have worked for me as I build up allies in my life. Maybe some of them can work for you. 

  1. Have difficult conversations versus avoiding conflict and pushing events under the rug like they never happened
  1. Step into uncomfortable zones versus staying comfortable and continuing with the status quo
  1. Listen to all sides of the truth versus making a judgment based on one side or one version of facts
  1. Focus on not overreacting to new information, and be open minded that things have, and will change
  1. Balance conversations, and be aware when you are talking more than you are listening
  1. Forgive yourself and others by not dwelling on past mistakes
  1. Be willing to forgive, forget and move on (I personally need to work really hard on this one) 
  1. Be realistic in your expectations with relationships and don’t seek perfection (Remember we are all human)
  1. Be welcoming and receptive to all views and opinions, even if they don’t match yours
  1. Speak up and help to give a voice to those who are fearful or timid of sharing 

In Conclusion

I have found that you must be open to allyship in order for it to form. I can’t help but think about a TED talk by Dr Ivan Young, where he said, “life attracts life.” He spoke about the concept of attracting what you want by constantly thinking about it. So why not think about, and as a result, attract more harmony, empathy, teamwork, and inclusivity into your life?

I have found that when I focus my thoughts on building the right type of allies, it attracts new friends and valuable relationships. 

Dr Young also said that “the set of circumstances you encountered, you have attracted into your life,” so go ahead and attract your own network and community of people who share the same values as you. And if you don’t feel like you have enough allies, then I challenge you to be a trailblazer and follow the ten steps above to start building new allies in your community.

And I want you to know that I’m here to be your ally too. Connect with me on Twitter, and let’s continue the conversation.

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