The project aimed to close the gap between different people. In this case refugees and Berliners. It was based on a psychology experiment conducted in 1997 by Arthur Aron In his study, "The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness," he found that in as little as four minutes of eye contact with a stranger you can develop a bond, a closeness.
I thought it would be interesting to bring a group of about 40 strangers into one place and have them conduct their own four minute experiment, talk about empathy and how to bring down walls between people. I replicated the four minute experiment by asking complete strangers to interact with each other for four silent minutes and to report to each other what they were thinking and what the felt. The results were interesting. Some cried, others laughed, some were silent. Many new friendships were born. I can’t report on every outcome, but the experience was powerful, and I think it made a difference.
We need more empathy, not only in clinical encounters, where we know that relational skills are as important as technical skills. We need more empathy in civil discourse, and we need to remind ourselves that we are not that different from those who might look different or who come from different countries, religions or creeds. We all need empathy and compassion and to feel understood by others. We need to build connections and bridges between people. We do not need more walls.