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Using Empathy Supports Voluntaryism

ScotterMonkeyOct 13, 2018, 1:49:06 AM

What is Voluntaryism?

It's a thing most of us do every day in most every kind of relationship. It's living the principle of mutual consent. To put it simply, it's never forcing others to do what we want; doing only what we willingly volunteer to do.

Some underlying Voluntaryist values and principles

Right to associate / disassociate

It's a Voluntaryist belief that every human has the right to say yes or no to any kind of relationship with others; business or pleasure. If a yes, then both parties must be in agreement. If no, it only takes one to say no and the other must abide. Think dating. If Person A asks Person B out on a date and Person B says no, Person A's needs, desires, and wants are irrelevant. Sure, we hope for compassion but Person B is not under any obligation to date Person A, right? Voluntaryists extend this to all kinds of relationships, including business. In any business relationship, the seller and buyer must both be in agreement before a transaction can occur. If either one does not wish to have a transaction, then Voluntaryists consider it a violation of personal autonomy and violation of their property right to keep what they have earned if the transaction was forced. This principle, put into action, would not allow for slavery of any kind. That said, this does not preclude a person from choosing to act with compassion and charity.

Some examples of where people are in line with this principle and when they are not:

It aligns with Voluntaryism to ask another person to help with a task and to accept either a yes or no. It is not in line with Voluntaryism to demand a person help with a task.

It is in line with Voluntaryism for Person A to offer to pay Person B for their time. And, based on right to disassociate, Person B can say no and does not need to justify their choice if they do not want to.

Non-Aggression Principle (NAP)

Many - but not all - Voluntaryists subscribe to this as the idea that it is morally wrong or pragmatically wrong to initiate the use of force against another person or their property. This does not include the defensive use of force and Voluntaryists are divided somewhat on retalitory use of force. I think most - if not all - Voluntaryists are not into pre-emptive uses of force.


Here is another area where not all Voluntaryists agree. Where most, if not all, Voluntaryists _do_ agree is that we are not _obligated_ to de-escalate. For example, if a person aggresses against you using physical force, it is within your right to use an equal amount of force to defend yourself. What if you can avoid damage by using _less_ force? I propose that people with a higher EQ will tend to see the benefits in using the least amount of force necessary.

As you might imagine, these principles do not support the existence of parasites- I mean- entities like courts and police, which we see as monopolies on arbitration, force, and enforcement.

For a person who is new to Voluntaryism, I imagine you might say something like, "Yeah, that all sounds really cool but with no government to protect us from bad actors, how would life not be chaos? How would the environment get protected? How would warlords be prevented from rising up and enslaving us? How would we defend against aggressive nation states?"

I wrote the following article to answer these questions, as well as many others you may have: https://busy.org/@scottermonkey/law-without-government

Or maybe you are fully on board with the idea of Voluntaryism but wonder how we can get from here to there _and_ what you can do to contribute? This article will help: https://busy.org/@scottermonkey/what-can-one-person-do

OK, hopefully that gives you enough of an understanding of what Voluntaryism is, so that I can share about how emotional intelligence (EQ) - and specifically, empathy - can support a peaceful and efficient movement toward more sustainable Voluntaryism in the world.

What's this about EQ and empathy?

First, let's make sure we are on the same page with the type of empathy I'm advocating for. It might be a bit more tangible than commonly thought of. Most people would say, "I give empathy all the time!" and what they mean is they _feel_ empathy all the time. They care about others. It's my belief that most of us do, to some degree or other. But how often do people _show_ empathy with their words in their day to day conversations?

In your experience, which of the following is more common to hear?

"Mommy I'm scared!"

Response: "There's nothing to be afraid of. Do this... Eat that..."

"Mommy I'm scared!"

Empathetic response: "When you saw the flash of lightning and heard the boom of thunder, did it worry you?"

With this example, do you see how being raised one way or the other might shape a personality differently? The extremes here would be a child growing up to deny and hide their feelings while the other would grow up to understand, accept, and express their feelings. Notice how the first response is coming from a place of authority?

Another example:

"The boss refused my promotion request."

Response: "Did you make sure to point out...?"

"The boss refused my promotion request."

Empathetic response: "Oh. I know you really wanted that! Are you pissed off?"

The first responder provides unsolicited guidance, as if they are an authority or in some other way above the other. The second response is to be empathetic.


"I'm bored."

Response: "Did you try ...?"

"I'm bored."

Empathetic response: "Are you wanting play, connection, or mental stimulation?"

Here, the authoritarian responder is taking it upon themselves to solve the "problem" or give advice. The empathetic responder is encouraging the bored person to look inside and figure out what need(s)/want(s)/value(s) they want to meet, which can provide a starting point for figuring out an activity to meet that need.

See the meta?

So - as we choose empathy over authority - we are being rather than dictating. On one level, the listener is enjoying the empathy and growing by using the path provided by the empathizer to investigate their own feelings and needs/wants/values. There is another benefit here. Humans have evolved mimicry as an important survival behavior. Children mimic their parents. By being empathetic, this influences the child to integrate this way into their own behavior. And, this happens to a lesser degree with adults. We wear off on each other. Being empathetic spreads it. I really want to some day see a tipping point. But - as much as I fantasize about there being a sudden surge in the average person's exposure to these methods and their value, I imagine it will be more gradual than that.


The point I want to make here is that empathy supports a way of being that is resistant to being controlled and wanting to control.

Think about it. Practices of advice, reassurance, evaluation, blame, shame, and guilt all promote the idea that a person knows what is better for you than you do. Practice of empathy promotes the idea that you typically know what is best for yourself. Everyone makes mistakes and has blind spots. But generally, we know ourselves better than anyone else can. I like that empathy supports this assumption.

The person embracing empathy might react to attempts to control them as follows:

"You really should do this thing for me."

Empathetic response: "Are you worried about not getting the support you want?"

Notice how, instead of it being the idea of answering yes or no, the person being empathetic here chooses to shift the focus, wanting to know the source of the want. In my experience, this often increases trust, respect, and depth.


If it sounds even a little bit formulaic or robotic, results may very well be negative. It's a sad irony about someone learning a tool like Nonviolent Communication (NVC) or Practical Empathy Tools (PETs) that - at least in beginner phases - we may actually damage relationships by inadvertently holding other people to our new standards and judging them for not measuring up. I wonder how many people "stick it out" through the "bratty phases"?

I can tell you from experience that yay there are benefits on the other side, where we have integrated the principles so deeply into ourselves that we sound a whole lot more natural because we are no longer needing to _think_ about it; it flows.

It's a really nice feeling to look back on a conversation and realize you had been in a state of empathy the entire time!

Or when you realize that as you are in the middle of it. "Wow _me_, a person who used to get so frustrated with people, who often yearned to impress people, who put high value in convincing others to see my way... that stuff... is now rare!" Btw, I definitely do all those things still. Just less often by far.

And... It feels liberating!

Back to the examples

"My way is the best way. Your way will never work."

Empathetic response: "Would you like me to know that you have looked at the different ways to get that job done and put quite a bit of thought into your decision?"

"Come on. Try it. Everyone is doing it!"

Empathetic response: "Is it important to you that I join you in consumption because you really value our friendship and being accepted?"

"You are a fool to not vote for my favorite politician."

Empathetic response: "Is it frustrating for you when others do not follow your lead on issues that are important to you?"

So yeah, if it isn't obvious. I'm proposing one way that empathy complements and can lead to those scary Voluntaryist urges. You know, those crazy desires to have more freedom, health, justice, prosperity, and as much real fairness as humans can have!

This is a constant study, practice, and exploration for me that began in 2005. It's fulfilling my needs for meaning, contribution, growth, and stimulation.

If you have interest in learning more, please feel free to comment, subscribe, follow, etc.


- https://www.clearsay.net/play-to-evolve.asp is where you can buy a card game - Play To Evolve - that I created to help people learn and practice empathy while enjoying themselves and bonding with others.

- https://ClearSay.net is a resource site I've put together that has animations, videos, articles, etc. on Voluntaryism, Nonviolent Communication (NVC), PETs (Practical Empathy Tools), Unschooling, and Peaceful Parenting.

- https://busy.org/@scottermonkey is where I post all of my articles.

- https://www.facebook.com/groups/ClearSayNVC is our Fakebook group.

- https://www.meetup.com/Austin-emotional-intelligence is our Meetup group where we announce all our meetings, which tend to be free. We now have over 1500 members. More importantly, we now have three facilitators, with a fourth coming soon. The goal is to have a free empathy practice meetup every day of the week!

- https://busy.org/@scottermonkey/how-can-increased-emotional-intelligence-transform-your-work-life if you are interested in how EQ can benefit you in business/work.