Association of Indians in America holds 2nd conference on ‘Awareness and Empathy’

Gobind Munjal. Photo: courtesy Gobind Munjal
Professor Shivaji Sengupta. Photo: courtesy AIA

A month after the first session on Awareness and Empathy, the Association of Indians in America (AIA) hosted its second conference June 16, 2022.

National President of AIA Gobind Munjal welcomed all attendees including some past presidents and trustees, a press release from the organization said.

The speaker was Dr. Shivaji Sengupta and the moderator was Asmita Bhatia, trustee of AIA, who laid down the paramaters for the 2nd session. Although awareness and empathy can be successfully used in many situations, private, corporate and political, Bhatia said, this session was going to be limited to two areas: personal relationships between family and friends, and relationships in the workplace.

Sengupta led the discussion restating the definitions of Awareness and Empathy, both states of being. Awareness is a person’s ability to be conscious of their environment, particularly, the people, he said, but it also includes being conscious of their selves, especially in terms of feelings. Empathy was being able to intuitively understand how another person is feeling as he or she is engaging you over an issue important to both.

While everyone has awareness and empathy these two can be developed into skills by constantly practicing the subskills such as observing, listening, responding.

Dr. Sengupta’s ideas led to a lively discussion among participants such as what one could do if the things turn hostile and offensive, or the difference between hearing and listening, the importance of eye-contact, and periodic responses that inform the speaker that the listener was genuinely interested in him/her.

Sengupta dwelt on the importance of calmness as one is talking to a hostile person, the need to remember their purpose of the discussion and whether differences in values (male/female; parent/child, supervisor/supervisee) are pre-emptory (unnegotiable) or ameliorative.

Other questions dealt with how to deal with others’ expectation when one’s status has changed, where Sengupta said it is best to be authentic, accept that one’s status in life has changed, but plead to be accepted as one is now.

The issue of male-female differences in engaging and responding were something Sengupta said he is still thinking about.

Sengupta also gave situational examples, such as those between a father and daughter who were engaged in a controversial situation to achieve a favorable outcome.

The members all agreed that this second session on Awareness and Empathy was lively, intelligent and intellectual and a huge success, AIA said in the press release, with some attendees asking for a third session.



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