Breaking Down Walls with Empathy: Overcoming the “Better Than” Mindset

In today’s society, we are constantly exposed to different cultures, religions, and beliefs. However, despite the diversity that surrounds us, many people still fall prey to the “better than” mindset. This mentality can foster prejudices and discrimination, further dividing us as a society. To break down these walls and promote unity, we must choose empathy over superiority.

Understanding the “Better Than” Mentality

The “better than” mentality is a way of thinking that deems oneself superior to others or a specific group of people. It can stem from personal biases or stereotypes and often leads to feelings of pride or arrogance. Those who practice this mindset may view those they consider “less-than” as inferior or unworthy of their respect.

While feeling good about oneself is natural, the “better than” mentality can create unnecessary division between people. Judging others based on preconceived notions rather than recognizing their individuality can lead to negative interactions and relationships.

The Damage Caused by the “Better Than” Mindset

The “better than” mentality can have severe consequences that reach far beyond the individual experiencing it. Here are just a few examples of the damage it can cause:

Division and Conflict

When people perceive themselves as superior, they may look down on others, causing hurt and offense. These situations can quickly escalate, driving a wedge between people and even leading to interpersonal conflict.


Believing one has already attained superiority or perfection can hinder growth and progress. When individuals think they know everything, they tend to seek out only like-minded people. This narrow approach stifles creativity and limits the ability to form new and innovative ideas.

Mental Health and Relationships

The “better than” mentality can breed emotions such as arrogance, contempt, and pride. These feelings can negatively affect mental health and drive others away, further isolating the individual and even leading to a lack of social support.

Creating Unity Through Empathy

Rather than focusing on perceived superiority, individuals can create unity and foster positive relationships through empathy. Here are a few ways to achieve this:

Recognize Personal Biases and Stereotypes

Everyone has biases and stereotypes, but recognizing them is essential. When we acknowledge our prejudices, we can work to overcome them and approach others with an open mind.

Learn about Different Perspectives

Broadening one’s understanding of different cultures, religions, and beliefs can help to break down walls and promote acceptance. Engaging with people who have differing views opens up the opportunity for learning and growth.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is the process of hearing and attempting to understand where someone else is coming from. By focusing on what someone is saying and how they are saying it, we can develop a deeper level of empathy and understanding.

Step out of Comfort Zones

To build empathy, we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and engage with others. This may mean attending events or joining organizations that expose us to new ideas and people. Being open-minded and willing to learn is essential in developing empathy.

Practice Self-Reflection

Periodically examining behaviors and thoughts can help identify any judgments or prejudices we may hold. By acknowledging these aspects, we can work towards overcoming them and treating others with respect and dignity.


The “better than” mentality can drive a wedge between people, fostering negativity and division. To break down these walls, we must choose empathy over superiority. Recognizing personal biases and stereotypes, learning about different perspectives, practicing active listening, stepping out of comfort zones, and self-reflection are all ways to start the journey towards empathy. When we choose to empathize rather than judge, we can create a society where diversity is celebrated, and positive relationships are formed regardless of one’s background.


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  1. Social psychologists have conducted extensive research on prejudice and discrimination, highlighting the damaging effects such biases can have on individuals and society (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006).
  2. The development of empathy has been shown to reduce the likelihood of engaging in prejudiced or discriminatory behavior. Empathy helps individuals to see others as unique individuals rather than just members of a particular group (Davis, 1996).
  3. Research has shown that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and interacting with individuals from different backgrounds can reduce the effects of prejudice. This kind of contact allows individuals to challenge their stereotypes and prejudices, leading to an increase in empathy and understanding (Pettigrew, 1998).
  4. Active listening has been identified as an essential component of empathy. By paying attention to what someone is saying and trying to understand their perspective, individuals can develop a deeper level of empathy and form stronger relationships (Rogers & Farson, 1957).
  5. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who practice self-reflection are less likely to act on their implicit biases. By regularly examining their thoughts and behaviors, individuals can become aware of their biases and take steps to overcome them (Devine et al., 2012).
  6. The American Psychological Association has highlighted the importance of cultural competence in promoting diversity and inclusion. By developing an awareness of one’s own culture and the cultures of others, individuals can work towards reducing prejudice and fostering positive relationships (APA, 2017).
  7. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that empathy plays a key role in forming close relationships. Individuals who engage in more empathetic behaviors, such as active listening and perspective-taking, tend to have higher-quality relationships (Davis et al., 1998).
  8. In their book “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” social psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald argue that everyone holds implicit biases. However, by acknowledging and addressing these biases, individuals can work towards creating a more equal and just society (Banaji & Greenwald, 2013).
  9. Research has shown that exposure to diversity can enhance creativity and innovation. By exposing themselves to different perspectives, individuals can gain new insights and ideas that they may not have otherwise considered (Phillips et al., 2019).
  10. A study published in the Journal of Social Issues found that intergroup contact can lead to positive social change, including a reduction in prejudice and discrimination. The study highlights the importance of engaging in meaningful, sustained interactions with members of different groups (Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005).