Author, podcaster and online show host Mimi Nicklin encourages South Africans to be more empathetic this Mandela Day. Nelson Mandela possessed an unshakeable belief in the power of empathy, honesty and dialogue to heal the deepest and most intractable wounds.

“Mandela Day 2020 will be a day more critically connecting than any we have ever had. It falls amid a locked down, fearful society who are spending their days dodging the threat of an invisible flu that holds a power well beyond the virus’ name suggests. We are living through an economic crisis that leaves our businesses on the edge and our anxiety in constant flux, and there are more hungry mouths and unemployed families than we can reach” – Nicklin. 

“It was Mandela that said that it is our compassion that ‘binds us together’. He was of course a man who believed in ubuntu, in understanding each other and in reaching out to those around us in dignity, respect and acceptance. He believed in empathy” – Nicklin

Three habits that you can use to increase your empathy:

  1. Be present: Make the people you speak to feel like they are the only person in the room. On 18thJuly, many of us will be holding conversations with those less fortunate. This is a time to ensure you are using active listening. Phrases like “what I’m hearing you say is…” makes the speaker feel further encouraged, as well as ensuring you can really hear what is being communicated to you. Ensure you listen to their words and their meaning, beyond hearing the speakers voice alone.
  2. Lean Forward: Remember that the majority of our communication is non-verbal so be conscious to use your body language to promote engagement and connectivity with those around you, especially if you don’t share a spoken language. Lean inward towards the speaker ensuring your body language is open – with uncrossed arms – and that your eye contact remains focused. 
  3. Learn a new language: Mandela famously said “Talk to a man in a language and it goes to his head, but speak to a man in his own language and it goes to his heart.” We live in a country of so many mother tongues, yet we so often speak only our own. As our rainbow nation unites this Saturday, take a pledge to learn a new language, not just for this day but for every day. If only to say ‘good morning, how are you?’ You could be making someone’s day, every day, for many months and years ahead, because after all is said and done, recognition for who we are, being seen, is our greatest human motivator.

Mimi hosts the weekly online breakfast show Empathy for Breakfast, on Tuesday mornings at 8AM. providing people  with a dose of insight, inspiration and practical knowledge that will empower them to navigate the week ahead with empathy. For Mandela Day, Nicklin felt the need to reach out to elderly people given that loneliness is so high during the lockdown.