Community & Government

Empathetic Giving

Melinda French Gates

Lesson time 09:25 min

Melinda talks about the importance of learning about others’ lives in order to truly understand their needs.

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Topics include: Empathetic Listening• “Their Cup Is Already Full”• The Importance of Dignity• Empathy in Action• Exercise: Keep a Journal


[LIGHTHEARTED MUSIC] - In this chapter, we're going to talk about the importance that empathy plays in any kind of giving. Empathy is when you really listen to somebody else's life and their circumstances and the setting that they live in and that you do your best to try and relate to that on a human or a one-to-one level. And I think you have to be pretty humble when you're listening to somebody tell their life story. It's important, I believe, in philanthropy how you go about your work. You know, you could go about it in a very egocentric way that it fulfills you, or you get credit for it, or you get recognized by the world for what you do or your community. But to me, that's not the reason to do philanthropy. To do philanthropy is because you believe deeply that you want to leave the world a better place when you exit it. But also, I think you should live out your values through your giving and the philanthropy and what you give back. At the core, all giving really does come down to your heart. What do you feel in your heart? It's our hearts that motivate us, that say, you know, I know what circumstances I come from and what I've been given in life or the opportunities maybe I had, say, in school. And if you can connect with the other person on a heart level or see what are the things they need to lift their lives up, I think that's what it will keep you giving the work. [LIGHTHEARTED MUSIC] When you're listening to others, it really enhances what you do. I think it can sometimes change your perspective, change your worldview, and help you to actually see the deep needs that are out there in your community. And so that empathetic listening, I think of it as you're accompanying somebody. You're not leading them. You're not pushing from behind. You're accompanying them on their life's journey and trying to help make it better and maybe help lift-- let them figure out good ways to lift themselves up and their family up. You're there to understand their lives, not to come in and try and convince them of something. Empathetic listening helps you with a much more holistic approach in your giving, whether you're trying to affect a person's life or have a community effect. If you have empathetic listening and you've taken feedback in or what you've heard over a short period, over a number of years, you're going to have a much more holistic way that you go about doing your giving. [LIGHTHEARTED MUSIC] I learned from a partner in India who was doing a project called Shivgarh, and he and his wife were living in this community and doing research. And one of the things he said is you need to understand that their cup is not empty. Their cup is already full. And what I learned from him was that you have to learn about people's lives and why they do the traditions and the practices that they do. They do them for good reason, and somebody's told them that's a good thing to do. I try to go back in history in the...

About the Instructor

One of the greatest philanthropists in history, Melinda French Gates has dedicated her life to giving back to the world. Now she’s teaching how you can identify your own unique assets—time, money, specific skills, or even your voice to discover a strategic path that can turn your power into progress.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Melinda French Gates

A philanthropist and advocate for women and girls, Melinda French Gates teaches you how to take what you’re good at and use it to create change.

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