Creating Empathy in Introductions

Introductions are hard because nobody ever told you what they’re for.

Homelessness is one of those underlying issues in our country that not many people understand. Homeless people are usually overlooked by most people and viewed very negatively by others. Something that people tend to forget is that the homeless are people too they bleed like us and share the same air we breathe. In a perfect world this problem would have been solved a long time ago however fixing homelessness around the world is not an easy thing to do, but there are many things that can be done to combat this social issue.
1. They shouldn’t distance readers from the author.
2. They shouldn’t scold readers for misunderstanding a situation.
3. They shouldn’t express how important the topic is, or how long it’s been controversial, or that people often disagree about it, or that it’s complicated, or that people have mixed emotions about it.

1. They should establish a strong bond with readers, using WE language.
2. They should make provocative claims that DEMONSTRATE our shared misunderstandings.
3. They should DEMONSTRATE the facts that make the topic complex and create disagreement among reasonable people.

The introduction above, in blue, contains perfectly reasonable material, important observations about homelessness and the homeless. But it creates resistance in your readers, who are told that they have not been attentive or generous enough to the homeless. To help them face the uncomfortable truth of their own ignorance or shortsightedness, it’s best to crouch down to the sidewalk level and admit that we’ve all felt helpless.

We don’t want to look at the homeless. They make us uncomfortable. We walk past them avoiding eye contact, or convince ourselves that they can’t be helped because of their own incorrigible behaviors. We know they’re humans in pain who share our sidewalks and breathe the same air we breathe, but they’ve been with us so long we’re convinced they’re a problem that can’t be solved. And for some that might be true. But for others, according to new research, radical solutions might be possible, solutions that start with looking the homeless in the eye and seeing ourselves there.