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How to teach empathy to adults

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

  • Method 1 of 3: Role-Playing. Practice listening without interrupting. If a person rushes to respond or share their own opinions, they stand in the way of empathy.
  • Method 2 of 3: Making Connections. Get curious about strangers. .
  • Method 3 of 3: Using Empathy in Your Own Life. Give people your full attention. .

3 Ways to Teach Empathy to Adults – wikiHow

Learn Empathy in Just 5 Steps | Psychology Today

40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students .

How To Teach Empathy In The Classroom

Can we teach empathy, especially to adults? | The Context .

How to Teach Empathy: A Framework for Parents and Teachers .

For Educators: How to Build Empathy and Strengthen Your .

Three Exercises to Teach Your Team Empathy | UX Booth

An Easy Way to Develop Empathy in Children and Adults .

Empathy at Work – Communication Skills From MindTools.com

20+ Strategies for Teaching Empathy – The Pathway 2 Success

Teaching Empathy to Adults | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC

Children learn empathy growing up, but can we train adults .

How to Teach Empathy to High School Students | Enriching .

Can you teach people to have empathy? – BBC News

Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care? | Edutopia

Teaching With Empathy: Why It’s Important

5 Activities for Building Empathy in Your Students | The .

Are online courses worth it?

Cost is another benefit, as most online courses are much cheaper than a traditional classroom program. Tuition is usually lower and there are practically no travel costs involved. That said, online education is only worth your time if you are earning accredited online degrees from accredited colleges.

Are online classes easy?

Online classes are no easier than classes offered in the traditional classroom setting and in some cases can be even be more difficult. There are several reasons for this. Online courses require more self-motivation. It can be hard for some students to stay motivated when they’d rather be doing something else.

Can I get a degree online?

To get a degree online, research on the internet to find an online course in the subject you want to study. For example, you might be able to study at an established university that offers online courses for out of state students. Alternatively, try exploring what online universities have to offer.

Does online certificate have value?

With the development of internet and technology, now you will find end number of online courses that offer many learning courses. Certificates and the online courses do have the values but that should be legal and recognized.

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About how to teach adults empathy

how to teach adults empathy provides a comprehensive and comprehensive pathway for students to see progress after the end of each module. With a team of extremely dedicated and quality lecturers, how to teach adults empathy will not only be a place to share knowledge but also to help students get inspired to explore and discover many creative ideas from themselves. Clear and detailed training methods for each lesson will ensure that students can acquire and apply knowledge into practice easily. The teaching tools of how to teach adults empathy are guaranteed to be the most complete and intuitive.

Empathy comes more easily to some, but it’s possible to learn it!

Posted Sep 06, 2018

THE BASICS

  • The Importance of Empathy
  • Find a therapist near me

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Your relationship with others determines much of your happiness and success in life. How you get along with coworkers, bosses, family, friends, and romantic partners often depends on your social skills, and at the root of good social skills is one thing: empathy.

Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings and experiences of another. In other words, empathy is imagining yourself in someone else’s skin: feeling what they feel and seeing yourself and the world from their point of view. As the character Atticus Finch says in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Empathy adds depth to the love you feel for others. With empathy, you see those you love for who they are, not whom you imagine or wish them to be. You appreciate them for their qualities, not just what they do for you, and you acknowledge that even when you share the same experience, you may have different thoughts and feelings. Without empathy, you might assume that their needs, boundaries, and experiences are the same as yours and as a result, you can make assumptions that get you into trouble.

Empathy comes more easily to some, but it’s possible to learn it even if you’re not the most naturally empathetic person. To learn empathy, try this exercise:

  1. Think about your significant other or a friend, family member, or coworker.
  2. What has their mood been like in recent days?
  3. What’s going on in this person’s life that might be making them happy or sad, anxious, or angry?
  4. How are you contributing?
  5. What could you do or say to improve this person’s situation?

For example, let’s say you’re married, and your partner has acted anxious and angry lately. They come home from work agitated, and tension between you runs high. Last night at dinner, they ruminated so much about their day at work that they barely spoke to you, and when they did talk it was to complain about their long commute.

The non-empathetic response would be to snap at them, remind them that your commute is longer, and angrily respond when they don’t ask about your day. That might feel good to do in the moment, and it might be “true,” but is that response helpful? Would it make your relationship better? Would it improve your life or your partner’s life?

No, it would not. Instead, it would make everything much, much worse.

Here’s an example of the empathy exercise at work:

  1. Think about your partner.
  2. Think about how your partner has been very stressed out the last couple of days.
  3. Think about what’s been going on in your partner’s life that may be leading them to feel stressed. Are they working longer hours than usual? Were they passed over for a promotion? Did a coworker or boss say or do something that upset them? You may not know the particulars, but if your partner comes home from work anxious and agitated every day, it’s pretty safe to assume something unpleasant happened at the office.
  4. Go over the last couple of days and think about how you may have contributed to your partner’s situation. You may not be the cause of it, but are you making them feel better or worse? Imagine yourself in the same situation. If you were having a hard time at work, how would you feel if you came home to a partner who snapped at you for complaining about your job?
  5. Finally, consider things you could do or say to improve your partner’s situation. People show and accept affection in different ways. While you may appreciate little gifts as a sign of love, your partner may appreciate actions more. Could you make them something for dinner you know they’ll enjoy? Give them a back rub? Think about what you know would lift your partner’s mood, not what you would like in the same situation.

Empathy–developed by regularly listening to another person’s thoughts and feelings–helps to build both closeness and respect. To know if you’re practicing empathy when talking to someone, keep this empathy checklist in mind:

  • Focus your attention on them when they’re talking. Don’t fidget or check your phone or gaze out the window.
  • Indicate that you’re listening by looking them in the eyes when they speak, nodding when you understand, and touching their hand or using another gesture to indicate your connection.
  • Show your respect by hearing them out without sarcasm or rejection. If you feel yourself getting angry or annoyed, ask to take a break. Get a glass of water and drink it slowly to give yourself time to mindfully re-center yourself.
  • Repeat what they say in your own words to make sure you’re hearing them correctly or ask questions if you’re not clear about their meaning.
  • Validate their emotions. Even if you don’t agree with an opinion, you can acknowledge the person’s right to their feelings.

When you act with empathy toward others, others will respond with empathy toward you. With the empathy exercise and the empathy checklist, you’ve got everything you need to learn and practice this crucial social skill.

Individual Therapy, Premarital Preparation, Couples Counseling, Parent Support

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Maybe you’ve already heard of him?

Dubbed “One of Britain’s leading lifestyle philosophers” by The Observer this chap has 436 links to his name in the newspaper’s search function (as of June 10th, 2015 anyway). They LOVE this guy. He’s the author of

  • The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live(published in the US as How Should We Live?); which explores what we can learn from the past about better living;
  • How to Find Fulfilling Work, part of The School of Life’s practical philosophy series edited by Alain de Botton;
  • The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis about what sport can teach us about life;
  • His blog Outrospection, dedicated to empathy and the art of living;
  • An RSA Animate video The Power of Outrospection, already seen by over half a million.

And now, having reviewed some of his impressive body of work on empathy and more, I’m a wholehearted fan as well.

  • Q: So, who IS this guy?
  • A: Roman Krznaric
  • Q: Why the fuss?
  • A: Well, with regard to the subject of empathy – understanding it, seeing the relevance of it, noticing the historical sweep of it, fostering it, and teaching it – Mr. Roman Krznaric (pronounced Kruz-Na-Ric) rules the turf. It makes no sense for me to reinvent this wheel. Instead I’m going to do two simple things here today.
  1. Summarize Krznaric’s six habits of highly empathic people and link it to the original article published in The Daily Good.
  2. Embed a 20 minute You Tube video of Roman giving this talk for those who prefer visuals.

1. Six Habits of Highly Empathic People – abbreviated.

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers “Cultivating curiosity requires more than having a brief chat about the weather. Crucially, it tries to understand the world inside the head of the other person. We are confronted by strangers every day, like the heavily tattooed woman who delivers your mail or the new employee who always eats his lunch alone. Set yourself the challenge of having a conversation with one stranger every week. All it requires is courage.”

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities “We all have assumptions about others and use collective labels—e.g., “Muslim fundamentalist,” “welfare mom”—that prevent us from appreciating their individuality. HEPs challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with people rather than what divides them.”

Habit 3: Try another person’s life “So you think ice climbing and hang-gliding are extreme sports? Then you need to try experiential empathy, the most challenging—and potentially rewarding—of them all. HEPs expand their empathy by gaining direct experience of other people’s lives, putting into practice the Native American proverb, Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins before you criticize him.”

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up “There are two traits required for being an empathic conversationalist. One is to master the art of radical listening. “What is essential,” says Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment.” HEPs listen hard to others and do all they can to grasp their emotional state and needs, whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer or a spouse who is upset at them for working late yet again. But listening is never enough. The second trait is to make ourselves vulnerable. Removing our masks and revealing our feelings to someone is vital for creating a strong empathic bond. Empathy is a two-way street that, at its best, is built upon mutual understanding—an exchange of our most important beliefs and experiences.”

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change “We typically assume empathy happens at the level of individuals, but HEPs understand that empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change. Just think of the movements against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. As journalist Adam Hochschild reminds us, “The abolitionists placed their hope not in sacred texts but human empathy,” doing all they could to get people to understand the very real suffering on the plantations and slave ships. Equally, the international trade union movement grew out of empathy between industrial workers united by their shared exploitation. The overwhelming public response to the Asian tsunami of 2004 emerged from a sense of empathic concern for the victims, whose plight was dramatically beamed into our homes on shaky video footage.”

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination “A final trait of HEPs is that they do far more than empathize with the usual suspects. We tend to believe empathy should be reserved for those living on the social margins or who are suffering. This is necessary, but it is hardly enough. We also need to empathize with people whose beliefs we don’t share or who may be “enemies” in some way. If you are a campaigner on global warming, for instance, it may be worth trying to step into the shoes of oil company executives—understanding their thinking and motivations—if you want to devise effective strategies to shift them towards developing renewable energy. A little of this “instrumental empathy” (sometimes known as “impact anthropology”) can go a long way.”

If this whet your appetite for the full article, click → The Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.

2. Six Habits of Highly Empathic People – the movie.

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list. How to Teach Empathy to Adults

If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE

Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO

Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

SKILL THREE

Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR

Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE

Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX

Crack The Empathy Nut

  • Thriving Through Tough Times
  • Teaching Empathy to Adults

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

AMV Photo / Getty Images

  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Psychosocial Psychology

Compassion involves the ability to feel empathy for others. This ability to understand the suffering of other people is an important component that motivates prosocial behaviors, or the desire to help. The ability to feel compassion for another person requires also having empathy and awareness. You need to be able to understand what another person is facing and understand what it might be like to be in their place.

It is important to note that compassion involves more than just empathy. Compassion helps people feel what others are feeling, but also compels them to help others and relieve their suffering. Until recently, scientists knew very little about whether compassion could be cultivated or taught.

Utilizing Meditation to Teach Compassion

In one study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that not only can adults learn to be more compassionate, teaching compassion could also result in more altruistic behaviors and actually lead to changes in the brain.  

The evidence suggests that not only can adults learn to be more compassionate, but that learning compassion can lead to lasting changes in how a person thinks and acts.

How exactly did researchers teach compassion? In the study, young adults were taught to engage in compassionate meditation, an ancient Buddhist technique intended to increase caring feelings for people who are experiencing suffering.

 How exactly does this meditation work? While meditating, the participants were asked to imagine a time when someone was suffering. They then rehearsed wishing for the relief of that person’s suffering.

The participants were also asked to practice experiencing compassion for different types of people, starting with someone they would easily feel compassion for, such as a family member or close friend. They were then asked to practice feeling compassion for a stranger, as well as for someone they had a conflict with.

Another group of participants called the control group, was trained in a technique known as cognitive reappraisal in which people learn to reframe their thoughts in order to feel less negative.

The researchers wanted to determine if people could learn to change their habits over a relatively short period of time, so both groups of participants received Internet training for a period of 30 minutes every day for two weeks.

Putting the Compassion Training to the Test

What sort of impact did this compassion training have? How did it compare to the results of the control group?

The researchers wanted to know if compassion training would help the participants become more altruistic. The participants were asked to play a game in which they could spend their own money to help another person in need. The game involved playing with two other anonymous people online, one who was a “Dictator” and one who was a “Victim.” As the participant watched the Dictator share an unfair amount of money with the Victim, the participant could then decide how much of their own money to share and then redistribute the money between the Dictator and the Victim.

The results revealed that those trained in compassion were more likely to spend their own money to help the player who had been treated unfairly, an example of altruistic behavior. These players were more likely to engage in this altruism than those in the control group who had been trained in cognitive reappraisal.  

Compassion Training Changes the Brain

The researchers also wanted to see what kind of impact this compassion training had on the brain. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) both before and after training, researchers were able to see how compassion meditation influenced brain activity.

What they observed was that those participants who were more likely to be altruistic after the compassion training had an increase in brain activity in the inferior parietal cortex, an area of the brain associated with empathy and understanding for other people. Other regions of the brain associated with positive emotions and emotional regulation also showed an increase in activity.  

The researchers suggest that like many other abilities, compassion is a skill that can be improved with practice.

The researchers believe that the results of the study offer exciting possibilities for helping people build compassion, thus transforming the lives of many. Healthy adults are not the only ones who can benefit from such training. Teaching children and adults compassion might help reduce bullying and help those who struggle with social issues.  

The Importance of Teaching Compassion

Why is it important to know that compassion can be learned, even in adults? Because compassion is a central component of so many prosocial behaviors including altruism and heroism. Before we take action to help another person, it is important that we not only understand the individual’s situation but that we also feel the drive to relieve his or her suffering.

According to some researchers, compassion involves three key things:

  • First, people must feel that the problems another person is facing are serious.
  • They must also believe that these troubles are not self-inflicted. When people believe that a person’s predicament is their own fault, they are less likely to empathize and less likely to help.
  • Finally, people must be able to picture themselves in a similar situation facing the same problems.  

It may seem like a tall order, but the research suggests that compassion is something that we can learn.

Not only can we learn how to become more compassionate, but building this emotional ability can also lead us to take action and help those around us.

A Word From Verywell

In today’s busy world, it is all too easy to feel that people have lost their connection with one another. Sometimes the onslaught of bad news can lead people to feel that there is little they can do to change what is happening in the world.

Research suggests, however, that compassion is a skill that can be learned and strengthened. Perhaps by learning how to increase our compassion, people can build deeper, more meaningful connections with others that will inspire good works, helpful actions, and simple human kindness.  

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Empathy is a quality that is integral to most people’s lives – and yet the modern world makes it easy to lose sight of the feelings of others. But almost everyone can learn to develop this crucial personality trait, says Roman Krznaric.

Open Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird and one line will jump out at you: “You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Human beings are naturally primed to embrace this message. According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathise wired into their brains – an in-built capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.

The problem is that most don’t tap into their full empathic potential in everyday life.

You can easily find yourself passing by a mother struggling with a pram on some steps as you rush to a work meeting, or read about a tragic earthquake in a distant country then let it slip your mind as you click a link to check the latest football results.

The empathy gap can appear in personal relationships too – like when I find myself shouting in frustration at my six-year-old twins, or fail to realise that my partner is doing more than her fair share of the housework.

So is there anything you can do to boost your empathy levels? The good news is that almost everyone can learn to be more empathic, just like we can learn to ride a bike or drive a car.

A good warm up is to do a quick assessment of your empathic abilities. Neuropsychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has devised a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes in which you are shown 36 pairs of eyes and have to choose one of four words that best describes what each person is feeling or thinking – for instance, jealous, arrogant, panicked or hateful.

The average score of around 26 suggests that the majority of people are surprisingly good – though far from perfect – at visually reading others’ emotions.

Going a step further, there are three simple but powerful strategies for unleashing the empathic potential that is latent in our neural circuitry.

Make a habit of “radical listening”

“What is essential,’ wrote Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication, “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within – to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing at that very moment.”

Listening out for people’s feelings and needs – whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or a spouse who is upset at you for working late yet again – gives them a sense of being understood.

Let people have their say, hold back from interrupting and even reflect back what they’ve told you so they knew you were really listening. There’s a term for doing this – “radical listening”.

Radical listening can have an extraordinary impact on resolving conflict situations. Rosenberg points out that in employer-employee disputes, if both sides literally repeat what the other side just said before speaking themselves, conflict resolution is reached 50% faster.

Look for the human behind everything

A second step is to deepen empathic concern for others by developing an awareness of all those individuals hidden behind the surface of our daily lives, on whom we may depend in some way. A Buddhist-inspired approach to this is to spend a whole day becoming mindful of every person connected to your routine actions.

So when you have your morning coffee, think about the people who picked the coffee beans. As you button your shirt, consider the labour behind the label by asking yourself: “Who sewed on these buttons? Where in the world are they? What are their lives like?”

Then continue throughout the day, bringing this curiosity to who is driving the train, vacuuming the office floor or stacking the supermarket shelves. It is precisely such mindful awareness that can spark empathic action on the behalf of others, whether it’s buying Fairtrade coffee or becoming friends with the office cleaner.

Bertolt Brecht wrote a wonderful poem about this called A Worker Reads History, which begins: “Who built the seven gates of Thebes? / The books are filled with the names of kings / Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?”

Become curious about strangers

I used to regularly walk past a homeless man around the corner from where I live in Oxford and take virtually no notice of him. One day I stopped to speak to him.

It turned out his name was Alan Human and he had a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. We subsequently developed a friendship based on our mutual interest in Aristotle’s ethics and pepperoni pizza.

This encounter taught me that having conversations with strangers opens up our empathic minds. We can not only meet fascinating people but also challenge the assumptions and prejudices that we have about others based on their appearance, accents or backgrounds.

It’s about recovering the curiosity everyone had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. Get beyond superficial talk but beware interrogating people. Respect the advice of oral historian Studs Terkel – who always spoke to people on the bus on his daily commute: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

These are the kinds of conversations you will find happening at the world’s first Empathy Museum, which is launching in the UK in late 2015 and will then be travelling to Australia and other countries.

Amongst the unusual exhibitions will be a human library, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation – maybe a Sikh teenager, an unhappy investment banker or a gay father. In other words, the kind of people you may not get to meet in everyday life.

Empathy is the cornerstone of healthy human relationships.

As the psychologist and inventor of emotional intelligence Daniel Goleman puts it, without empathy a person is “emotionally tone deaf”.

It’s clear that with a little effort nearly everyone can put more of their empathic potential to use. So try slipping on your empathy shoes and make an adventure of looking at the world through the eyes of others.

More from the Magazine

Parts of the NHS have come under fire in recent years, with David Cameron among those calling for health professionals to show more compassion. But Tom Shakespeare asks if there are dangers in placing too much emphasis on empathy.

Roman Krznaric is the author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It – on which this article is based – and is founder of the Empathy Museum and Empathy Library.

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine’s email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.

August 23, 2013 Updated October 10, 2014

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Empathy is the ability to understand and experience the feelings of others, and to respond in helpful ways. Some children seem to develop empathy more naturally than others, but all children need to be taught this critical skill.

Children who are empathic will be better able to cope with conflict and difficult social situations. Children who are empathic will be less likely to engage in bullying behavior, and more likely to jump in and help a friend or peer who is being bullied. Children who are empathic are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults with adaptive coping skills.

It’s never too early, or late, to start teaching empathy to your children. Why not start today?

1. The best way to teach empathy is to model empathy. Pick your child up when he falls, label his feelings and let him know that you’ve felt that way too, and listen to your children. Instead of walking away from that temper tantrum, stay calm and talk your child through it. When children see you respond to difficult situations with empathy, they will internalize those behaviors and learn to do the same.

2. Kids are more likely to develop empathy when their emotional needs are being met at home. Yes, parenting can be trying at times, and kids have emotions that shift by the hour. But they need to feel heard and helped when things are hard. When children have secure attachments with their parents, they are more likely to show empathy toward others. Give them the gift of security.

3. You teach them how to get dressed, you teach them how to put on their shoes, and you teach them how to brush their teeth. But have you taught them how to identify their feelings? Label their feelings for them (positive and negative) so that they can connect feelings words with emotional reactions. It’s nearly impossible to understand how another person feels if you can’t even understand how you feel. Try a game. Observing Feelings: Don’t just read through a book quickly or sit quietly through an episode of Franklin…point out the facial and other non-verbal cues and try to identify the feelings. You will be reading the books and taking TV breaks anyway, why not make them a learning experience?

4. Kids who have responsibilities tend to be more empathic and caring. Give your child a specific job, allow your child to care for a small pet, and get involved in family community service projects. When children are taught to be responsible, they learn to think about others.

5. It’s tempting to solve every problem for our little ones. We usually have a solution, after all. But if we solve every problem, we rob them of the opportunity to learn a critical life skill. Teach your children to Stop-Think-Act. Stop: Assess the situation and determine the problem. Think: Consider possible solutions. Will sharing a toy make my friend feel better? Act: Choose the best option and put it into action. When children know how to problem solve, they are more likely to jump in and help a friend or sibling.

Opportunities to teach empathy are everywhere. Don’t let another one slip away!

Clients and friends often ask me how to cultivate empathy in their children. Instead of only understanding their own point of view, parents want their children to learn how to share, take others’ perspectives, and how to value other people’s opinions just as they value their own. Although this skill can be tough when kids are very young, it is never too early to focus on empathy in the home and outside of it.

Here are six ways to teach empathy to your children, whether they are toddlers, preschool aged, or school aged.

1. Teach them about emotions.

Kids can’t empathize with what others are feeling if they don’t know how to put words to their own emotions. As your child goes through his day, make sure to point out which emotions you see him feel, and also which ones you’re feeling.

Example: “I see you’re disappointed that there was only one cookie left.” “Mommy felt anxious right there when the car didn’t start.”

No child is too young to start hearing emotion words and learning what they mean.

2. Read and watch TV together.

Even the simplest board book will have characters that your child can learn to empathize with. Don’t just read, but discuss what characters are feeling as the story progresses. And shows like Daniel Tiger are excellent at teaching empathy, and work particularly well if you and your child discuss what’s happening on the screen.

Example: “Elmo looks sad there when he didn’t see his friends at first. Now that they surprised him with a cake, I wonder what he’s thinking!”

3. After conflicts, discuss what everyone was feeling.

While your child is hitting his sibling is not the time to discuss feelings. But when the children are separated and have calmed down, it is a great time to go back and talk about what each child was feeling. Younger children can be guided to figure out what they may have been thinking or feeling at the time. This can be done while helping them figure out how to express their feelings in a more adaptive way.

Example: “You seemed very frustrated when Josh took your car. I think that is why you hit. Hitting isn’t okay, but maybe next time you could say, It was my turn and I’ll give it to you next.”

4. Let them see you resolve conflicts in your own life.

Almost everyone argues in front of their kids sometimes, even though ideally you should limit this. The key to ensuring that any arguments that do occur do not have a bad impact on your kids is by making sure that if you fight in front of the kids, you make up in front of them too. Obviously, if you cannot keep your tone and your words under control, make sure to wait until the children are not near you, but a good rule of thumb to remember is: if kids never see conflict resolution in a relationship, they will be unlikely to be able to resolve conflicts in their own later relationships. Make sure to take the other party’s perspective in order to resolve.

So, if you and your husband are arguing over, for example, division of household tasks, be sure to have the children see when you compromise over who will do the laundry and who will drive the kids to soccer. Then they will see that arguing is okay, it can lead to productive resolutions, and that people can love each other even when they disagree.

Example: “I know you’re tired after work, so would you like me to do the driving while you put in the laundry, then we can both fold together later?”

5. Speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Children frequently exhibit empathy toward babies, who naturally elicit empathy as an evolutionary adaptation to ensure that they get taken care of by older humans. To make the most of this phenomenon, make sure to discuss and wonder aloud with your child about what babies (and pets) may be feeling.

Example: “Baby Mike looks upset. What do you think is wrong? Do you think he is hungry or tired?” or “Laila is sniffing Grandma a lot. Is she trying to make friends?”

6. Model respect for those who seem different.

Children are naturally fascinated by those who are different. My own toddlers often loudly asked, “What dat?” when seeing people in wheelchairs. If a child is curious about someone with a disability, don’t just shush them. Make friends with the person and allow your child to see that this person is more similar to him than different. Often, the person will explain his disability to your child, if your child is prompted to ask respectful questions, which is how my children were taught about wheelchairs. (Other tips for teaching your child respectful behavior toward individuals with disabilities can be found here.)

These are some little tips to ensure that you can help your child reach her innate potential to be empathic and kind. However, there is no substitute for acting empathic yourself, and allowing your child to observe you. Your child will learn the most from watching you interact with others in a kind, empathic way, so if you need to work on this yourself (we all do), read this. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Even Toddlers Can Empathize, Although They Can Also Suck.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Learn about Dr. Rodman’s private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation, here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Lying on my couch sick as a dog, I remember watching in dismay as my teen walked straight past me without so much as an “Are you okay, Mom?” or “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”. It made me wonder if empathy is a skill that can be taught and learned. Teens are notorious for self-centered behavior. How do parents make them more aware of the needs of others?

What Is Empathy?

Empathy can be defined as an ability to discern one’s own feelings from that of another person; a sense of self-awareness. In addition to being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and see things from the other person’s perspective, one should also be able to regulate his or her own emotional response.

At this point, you might think that these abilities seem like normal adult social skills. However, even adults can have trouble with these abilities. For instance, some people might refrain from helping others who are in need, not because they lack empathy, but because they may not know how to cope with their own emotional reactions to the other’s person’s plight.

So back to the question about teens and empathy, can it be taught? I am inclined to answer “Yes”. Whether empathy is a skill that can be learned or whether the capacity for it is innate as parents, we can help it to flourish. Additionally, there are varying degrees of empathy, and with practice, we can develop stronger empathic skills. For teenagers, being able to develop this empathic skill is a crucial step in their development because it enhances their social skills as well as their ability to care for other people.

Studies have shown the lack of empathy as a possible factor in the development of antisocial behaviors such as bullying and cruelty to animals. When the bully is unable to recognize and care about the plight of the victim, he or she is unable to experience guilt and therefore, sees no reason to change and is apt to continue with his or her behavior. Obviously this is an important skill to cultivate.

Ways To Teach Teens About Empathy

1. Develop a secure attachment with your teen: When a child’s own emotional needs are addressed and met, they are more apt to show empathy and help others who are in distress. As a parent, you can strive to develop a secure relationship with your child; help them know that they can count on you for both emotional and physical support. Research1 shows that children who have parents that help them cope with negative emotions in a sympathetic, solution-oriented way are more likely to demonstrate concern for other kids.

2. Remember that your child is not “Mini-you”: Treat your child as an individual with a mind of his or her own. Discuss their emotional and mental states and help them understand how feelings, desires and emotions can influence behavior. You can teach him or her how to recognize and label feelings by modeling the verbal expression of your own feelings as well as those that you have observed in others.

For example, when communicating with your teen, you can use “I” statements like “I felt angry when the cashier was rude to me at the grocery store.” This gives them the language to express themselves responsibly. Additionally, you can use reflective listening to help them label feelings in others by asking them questions like “You seem a little upset today, did something happen at school?” This helps children recognize their feelings as well as the importance of expressing them.

3. Model empathic behavior and induce sympathetic feelings: As parents, we can seize everyday opportunities to point out situations that call for empathy. We can generate sympathetic responses in our kids. For instance, while watching a television program like “Glee”, in which the kids who are considered “nerds” often have slushies thrown at their faces, you can use that to talk to your child about how that person who was being bullied must feel. Or, if your child comes home and shares with you that a new kid in school was being made fun of, you can model caring by saying “He must be feeling so alone and sad, maybe we can invite him over one day?” When we do this, we are taking things one step further because not only are we labeling feelings, we are also helping kids recognize opportunities for caring for other peoples’ emotional needs, thus helping them brainstorm different ways to help.

4. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes: When teens identify or feel that another person is similar to them, they are more likely to feel empathy for that individual. So one way to teach teens to develop their empathic skills would be to help them discover what they have in common with other individuals. Moreover, in this age of “cyber-ism” where the line between “real” and the “imaginary” is blurred and seldom are there direct consequences for their actions, the more we can humanize the victim’s distress, the better our teen will be able to respond with empathy.

These are just a few suggestions on how to teach empathy to teens. Teaching your teen empathy is like turning their “mirrors” into “windows”. A mirror symbolizes self-centeredness, where the teens see only themselves and care only for their own feelings. Windows symbolize empathy, where the teen is able to look beyond their own needs and put themselves in another person’s position.

How to Teach Empathy to AdultsHow To Teach Empathy

by Terry Heick

Right near the core of education, just past tolerance and just short of affectionate connectivity, is the idea of empathy.

University of California at Berkley’s Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life explains empathy. “The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.”

Empathy is often confused with sympathy, which is a pretty extraordinary error depending on how tightly wound you are about these things (and whose definitions you stand behind). According to Dr. Brene Brown offers a divisive take on the difference. “Empathy fuels connections, sympathy drives disconnection.”

This contrasts with dictionary.com, which explains “Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person.” dictionary.com marks just a slight discrepancy between the two—sympathy requiring less movement and merging of emotions, while empathy is entirely that.

The chemistry and subjectivity and nuance of language aside, there is a clear handle for us as teachers. However large you see the distinction, they certainly have very different tones. Empathy is based in compassion, while sympathy is based in analysis.

UC Berkley continues clarifying:

“Contemporary researchers often differentiate between two types of empathy: “Affective empathy” refers to the sensations and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions; this can include mirroring what that person is feeling, or just feeling stressed when we detect another’s fear or anxiety. “Cognitive empathy,” sometimes called “perspective taking,” refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples’ emotions. Studies suggest that people with autism spectrum disorders have a hard time empathizing.”

Ideally, empathy would be the net effect of experience, which in classrooms is both a matter of process and knowledge. Students would learn to empathize rather than be taught to empathize, as a symptom of what they know. Why this is important is a matter of implication and language. Teaching someone to feel what others feel and sit with emotions that aren’t their own couldn’t be any further from the inherent pattern of academics, which is always decidedly other. Teaching always begins with detachment—learn this skill or content strand that is now apart from you. Empathy is the opposite; it starts in the other, and finishes there without leaving.

In your classroom, there are dozens of natural sources of empathy. But what about authenticity? There’s nothing worse than ‘schoolifying’ something a child actually needs to know. So much of great teaching is about packaging content so that students recognize it as something they need to know and can actually use, rather than something to do because I said so and you don’t want a zero do you?

How to Teach Empathy to AdultsTeaching Without Empathy

One way to consider it? Without empathy, you’re teaching content instead of students. The concept of teachers as primarily responsible with content distribution is a dated one, but even seeking to ‘engage’ students misses the calling of teaching. To teach a child is to miss the child. You must understand them for who they are where they are, not for what you hope to prepare them for. “Giving knowledge” and “engaging students” in pursuit of pre-selected knowledge both are natural processes of formal education–and both make empathy hard to come by.

So then, where to start doing something different? How should you ‘teach it’? How will you know it when you see it? Is it different for different content areas, grade levels, genders, socioeconomic background, nationality, or other ‘thing’? Is this new-age mumbo jumbo, or a precise tool for a progressive teacher? How has the push of digital and social media into learning spaces emphasized the need for empathy–or naturally reduced it?

Is empathy a skill that can even be taught? A ‘competency’ you should bullet point in your lesson plan and pre-assess for? Or is it something more full and persistent and whole? “Expressing care for another is not an innate ability present more naturally in some people than others, but rather a skill that can be taught and nurtured through a supportive educational environment” (McLennan, 2008, p. 454). McLennan’s research suggests it is a skill.

But pushed further, it’s not hard to see that empathy is both a cause and effect of understanding, a kind of cognitive and emotional double helix that can create a bridge between classroom learning and ‘real life’ application. Getting started with empathy in the classroom is a matter of first grasping it as a concept, strategy, and residual effect of knowledge and perspective.

Heading over to tolerance.org (great resource, by the way) and ordering a bunch of posters and DVDs may be unnecessary–at least at first. Internalizing how the idea of empathy can reframe everything that happens in your classroom–your reason for teaching–is a shift that will suggest a world of possibility for teaching lessons, activities, and strategies.

More than anything else though, empathy is a tone. Broken into parts, it is about self, audience, and purpose. It helps students consider:

Who is ‘other’? Other how? How do we relate? What do we share? What do they need from me, and I from them? This leads to a staggering, and often troubling, question for all of us: What should I do with what I know?

Teaching empathy, then, is a matter of both affective and cognitive empathy–feeling with, alongside, and through others. This is a huge undertaking. It’s a process that resists labels–human genres of race, sexuality, class, and other grotesque aesthetics–and requires scrutiny. You have to exchange what you think you know for what you don’t. At it’s core, it’s a matter of seeing the world with fresh eyes unburdened with “belief.” To get a person to look at another person as a matter of beautiful symmetry.

Want to teach empathy? Help students ask not “How am I unique?” but rather “How are we the same?”

A version of this post was written by Terry Heick and originally published on edutopia; image attribution flickr user BoudewijnBerends

You probably do it. If your children are preteens or older, they surely do it, too: take endless “selfies” to document life’s moments, however inconsequential. Fuss with filters to display an enhanced version of reality. And then post these curated shots to an array of social networks, chasing after new followers and “likes” for positive affirmation.

Your kids also probably text rather than talk, their devices both an instrument for, and a barrier to, true communication.

Is this growing level of navel gazing and indirect exchange promoting a rise in narcissism and loss of empathy in our culture, especially among younger generations? Are kids losing their sense of compassion and community?

Yes, maintains Michele Borba, EdD, author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. Research she outlines in her book suggests a staggering 58% rise in self-centered thoughts, aspirations, and actions among American college kids across demographics during the past three decades, with a 40% decrease in empathic behavior.

“The ‘selfie syndrome’ is not entirely about photo-taking and social networks,” Borba explains. “It refers to a shift in our overall culture to hyper-individualism, a change first noted around 2000. We’ve become more competitive and self-focused with the rise of reality television; even musical lyrics that once said ‘Two hearts beat as one’ now say ‘I this,’ and ‘I that.’ In books we’re seeing far more ‘I’s’ and fewer ‘we’s.’ Kids used to want to grow up and become something, do something. Now they simply say ‘rich and famous.’”

What is the antidote to the Me-Me-Me Era? Turns out teaching empathy — the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes and imagine how that person feels — to children as young as age 1 or 2, and continuing to both model and reinforce empathy until they’re old enough to leave home, is key.

So how do you combat narcissism and instill empathy in your children? Borba offers these nine ideas:

1. Develop emotional literacy. In an age of texting, kids fail to recognize facial cues and voice intonation. To understand their own feelings and the feelings of others, Borba advises “regular, scheduled unplugged time. Take back the family meal. Put down the cellphone and talk. Eye to eye. So you can see and hear each other’s expressions and meaning.”

2. Make a family mission statement. “Tell your kids: ‘This is what our family stands for: You are expected to be kind. Caring. Socially responsible to others.’ Create a sign of this statement and hang it on the refrigerator, so they see and internalize it every day.” Parents must also practice what they preach.

3. Stay “other” focused. “Teach your kids to ask: ‘How would I feel as that other person?’ Ask this when you discipline. Ask them when you watch TV. Point to a character who goes through something difficult and ask: ‘What does she need to feel better?’ Ask it enough and empathy kicks in.”

4. Read good books. Introduce literary fiction, such as Charlotte’s Web, Borba suggests, with rich moral dilemmas to teach empathy. “The young adult novel Wonder is another great example,” she says.

5. Just breathe. Kids need to learn how to manage their emotions through self-regulation. “When stress builds, we sometimes all go into survival mode and turn off empathy,” Borba says. “Deep breathing is a way to get to a more mindful state. I tell kids to take slow, deep breaths from their tummy. You can teach even the youngest children this technique. It’s fabulous for teens. It helps them to chill out.”

6. Practice kindness. If you behave kindly, kindness becomes a habit. “I know of a family that instructs their kids as they’re leaving for the day to do two randomly kind things and report back at dinner. Simple stuff, like smiling at another child, or opening the door for a teacher. I promise, they love the positive reinforcement they receive. It develops a caring mind-set, and not just during the holidays. Have fun with this: Create a basket of kindness index cards and let the kids come up with ideas. Every day, tell them to pick two.”

7. Teach conflict resolution. “Team players are collaborators and problem-solvers when conflicts arise,” Borba says. Still, society can be so competitive. “I encourage younger kids to work out conflicts with games of Rock-Paper-Scissors, which teaches empathy through play. An oldie but a goodie.” She instructs older kids to “Stop, listen to their feelings, take turns telling the problem without interruption or put-downs, narrow the choices toward a solution, decide on it, shake hands — and let it go.”

8. Stick your neck out. Children who learn moral courage become future leaders, according to Borba, who has studied the works and biographies of 30 Nobel Prize winners. “They’re the kids who can’t stand bullying or seeing another kid upset,” Borba says. Still, it can be daunting to take a stand. “The Navy Seals learn four techniques to pass rigorous training tests for challenging situations,” she adds. “Teach them to your kids. The first is positive self-talk: ‘I’m calm and in control.’ The second is ‘chunk it’: ‘I can get through the next 5 minutes.’ When those 5 minutes are done, say it again to take small steps toward conquering a problem. The third is deep breathing, which drives away fear. And the fourth is doing a mental rehearsal to visualize success.”

9. Grow a difference-maker! “Parents need to give their kids opportunities to serve and give back . and, just as important, they need to follow their passions and encourage kids to chase their own,” Borba says. “Also, use newspapers, and not for doom and gloom; all the negative can be numbing. Find uplifting stories and read them to kids before bed to fill them with the wonder of the world.”

Sources

Michele Borba, EdD, author, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

Understood’s resources for educators are backed by research, vetted by experts, and reviewed by classroom teachers.

Understood’s resources for educators are backed by research, vetted by experts, and reviewed by classroom teachers.

Imagine this scenario: You’re eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge, and the cafeteria monitor comes to find you. One of your students, Shaun, is pushing other students to get to the front of the line to go outside for recess. This is the third day in a row the monitor has interrupted your lunch for the same reason.

Frustrated, you rush down the hall. You tell Shaun that if he can’t wait his turn calmly, he’ll have to be the last one in line from now on. Your reaction is understandable—what you see is a student who is continuing to shove other kids out of his way even after he’s been told not to.

Student Behavior and Empathy

What you see your students do and hear them say influences your perception of them. With a classroom full of students, it’s natural to react to students based on those outward behaviors—but what’s happening below the surface?

It’s human nature to focus on how a student’s negative behavior takes time away from teaching and affects your classroom. When you are charged with managing behavior in addition to teaching content, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening with the student and focus on what’s happening to you as the teacher.

Showing empathy can help you change that dynamic, so you not only acknowledge and consider what you see and feel, but also what you don’t see. Those unseen challenges could include learning and thinking differences. But other struggles, such as trauma or hunger, may also be involved.

What Empathy Is

Empathy is a way of connecting with other people that shows you understand that they’re experiencing something meaningful—even though you may not understand exactly how it feels for them. In other words, empathy is about finding a way to connect and to be able to say, “I want to understand how this feels to you and let you know that you’re not alone.”

Empathy is a powerful tool that can help you better understand what’s driving your students’ behavior and find strategies to help. It can also help you connect and work through difficult moments together.

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What Empathy Isn’t

Keep in mind that empathy isn’t the same as sympathy. When you are sympathetic, you may feel sorry for students. Even though you may care deeply for them, sympathy may lead you to look down on students instead of trying to understand or connect with them.

Being empathetic does not mean lowering your expectations. You can validate and have empathy for students, while at the same time holding them to high standards. In moments when you connect with students empathetically, you can reinforce your belief in their ability to succeed.

Empathy may not be about feeling sorry, but it is about feelings. Give yourself permission to acknowledge your own emotions. It’s natural to be frustrated or upset. What’s going on with your students has an emotional impact on you, too. You may need to take a minute to regroup before you talk to the student.

When you’re ready and able to be empathetic in stressful moments, it shows that you’re trying to get past your own feelings. You’re modeling for students what it looks like to practice self-control and to tune into other people’s feelings.

The Four Parts of Empathy

Researchers have identified four main attributes of what it means to be empathetic. Integrating these practices into your teaching can show students that you see what they’re going through as more than just a problem to fix.

Perspective taking. When you take a different perspective, you put aside your own feelings and reactions to see the situation through your students’ eyes. You may start by asking yourself: Do I believe my students are doing the very best they can?

Putting aside judgment. It’s easy to jump to and express conclusions about the situation based on what you see. But it’s important to step back and consider: What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation?

Trying to understand the student’s feelings. If you can, tap into your own experiences to find a way to understand what the student is feeling or to remember a time when you felt something similar. Be careful not to overdo it, however. Each person’s experiences are their own, so saying “I know how you feel” can come across as disingenuous. If you’re struggling, ask yourself: What more do I need to learn and understand about how other people are reacting to or perceiving the situation?

Communicate that you understand. Talk to your students without using “fix it” phrases like “what you need to do is….” Instead, try reflective phrases like, “It sounds like you…” or “I hear that you….” As teachers, our instinct is often to contain the situation and find a quick fix. That can help in the short term. But it won’t build long-term trust with students. And it won’t help students learn to solve problems with you, and eventually try to solve issues on their own. This step requires you to do some self-reflection: What more do I need to learn and understand about how I react in the moment? What more do I need to learn about how I communicate to others that I hear them, even though I’m experiencing my own emotions?

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Focus on ‘Empathy’ has been going around for quiet sometime in the education world, and it’s not hard to see why.

Empathy is an essential skill that makes an individual a responsible and helpful community member at school and elsewhere. This can also be a pathway to academic and career success, because it helps people understand and work with others. Students who posses empathy tend to be more engaged in classroom, have higher academic achievement, better communication skills, less aggressive behaviors or emotional disorders, do not bully others and build more positive relationships.

This isn’t something that children have been born with but they naturally have the capacity for empathy. They just learn how to notice, listen, and care by watching and listening to adults and peers, and they take cues from people about the importance of empathy. From teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers to administrators, and others – all of them play a crucial role in helping students develop and display empathy. However, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of hard work to build empathy. You can build empathy by just teaching them in the right way.

Here are some strategies teachers around the world use to teach both effective and cognitive empathy to their students:

Model Empathy:

You may present yourself as a role model to your students, by giving example that shows students the power of empathy in relationships. Through examples you can model how to be positive when learning, then students mirror optimistic and confident learning behaviors. If not, you can do a thorough research and share the most effective examples with your students to teach empathy. You may recommend or display few videos to your students; it can also provide many great examples for students to model empathy on.

Design a curriculum that teaches active listening:

When it comes to promote empathy, active listening can be a great approach. You may design a curriculum that promotes active listening. Pocket Empathy is one such example (recommended by SSDS teachers) . It is an exercise that teaches 3rd graders the skill of ‘active listening’. This exercise entails pairing with a partner and following specific prompts such as eye contact when your partner is speaking, not interrupting in between and making insightful comments that acknowledge a student has been applying his or her whole self to what their partner is saying.

Teach Point of view:

Teaching students about different point of views for the very same thing can be an effective learning tool and can foster empathy by encouraging students’ curiosity. For instance, use the numbers like 6 and 9 to teach students about different point of view. First, have your students look at the number 6 and then the number 9. Now stating an example, like, the exercise came from ancient time where two princes were at war for many years. One prince looked at the image on the table and said it was a 6, while the other prince found it to be a 9. For years the battle raged, and one day when the princes were seated at the table a young boy turned the tablecloth around, and for the first time, they could see the other’s point of view. The war came to an end, and the princes became firm friends; using this example teach them about different point of views or perceptions.

Use Literature to Teach Different Perspectives:

It might sound different, but using literature can be a great tool to help students see a situation from different perspectives. For example, Jon Scieszka in his book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, makes a solid point against what we think of the story, in general. When we read the story, we sympathize with the pigs because we see the wolf as a voracious villain, but is it possible to see the story from the wolf’s point of view? That’s exactly what he undertakes in “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs”. Similarly, you can use such examples to teach different perspectives and help develop empathy at the same time.

Create Empathy Maps:

Every year a new group of students enter into schools, each with their own and individual set of wants and desires, pain, fears, frustrations and preferences, making it difficult to recognize their needs in order to empathize with them successfully. So, it’s better to draw empathy map. It is a powerful tool that will provide intuitive insight into who your students are and how could you help them. You can simply create an empathy map, providing a particular situation and asking questions, like:

What do you think and feel?

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you say and do?

All these will enable them think critically about how others would feel in a situation.

Besides all of these, we have enlisted five best lessons (below) for further help:

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One of the Empathy Project groups planning out empathy education activities.

Courtesy of Mark Brennan

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Penn State faculty members Mark Brennan and Mary Kate Berardi believe that empathy matters — which is why they are leading Penn State’s “Empathy Project.”

For about three years, the Empathy Project has sought to teach teenagers and young adults empathy and all that comes with it. It started in Ireland and came to Penn State about a year and a half ago.

The project was the brainchild of Brennan and Pat Dolan. Brennan serves as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization chair in community, leadership and youth development at Penn State, while Dolan is the UNESCO chair at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Berardi, a UNESCO graduate fellow, came along later in the process. She said though the program educates young adults, the Empathy Project was originally just meant for high school students.

Currently, there are two versions of the program — one that educates students ages 14-18 and another for college students aged 18-25.

Berardi is responsible for training high school teachers and counselors how to go about teaching the course.

The project consists of a four-week, non-credit course designed as an empathy education program made to dispel the myth that empathy is just “giving out hugs,” as Brennan put it.

Brennan said he has found that the more empathy a person has, the better they do in school, the higher their academic ceiling can go and the better person they are.

“We wanted to make sure that [empathy education] was pushed through the school system,” Brennan said. “There aren’t many education programs for it. [People] kind of assume that good people have empathy and bad people don’t.”

Brennan noted that “almost all” empathy education programs are geared toward young children in early elementary school. Brennan said this is part of the reason he and Dolan founded the Empathy Project.

The trio of Brennan, Berardi and Dolan worked together to design the program’s curriculum, make evaluations and determine the impact it had.

“Our goal is to teach empathy to every young adult in the world,” Berardi said.

Berardi also said the curriculum of the program is based around evidence and literature. It contains activities that make the students see how empathy is present in their lives.

“We want to get people thinking about empathy and how it relates to their lives,” Berardi said. “And also how you can apply empathy to climate change or social justice issues.”

Relating the class to current events is a common practice of the course. Berardi said one of her lessons focused on the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. She has been working on an online course that can encompass the current coronavirus pandemic.

One of the points Brennan and his colleagues try to stress is the idea that empathy is different than sympathy.

Students at one of the Empathy Project’s information sessions.

Courtesy of Mark Brennan

“Sympathy is good, you should feel bad for people — but empathy is that and then some more,” Brennan said. “It’s not only putting yourself in someone’s shoes, but acting on their behalf.”

The program encompasses activities and practices that allow participants to see what other people are going through, understand it, remove their judgement from the equation and then act on it. The students are also encouraged to keep a journal tracking their thought patterns.

According to Berardi, there are four components of empathy that relate to the course.

The first is the definition of empathy because “in order to fix anything, you have to be able to define it,” according to Berardi.

The second aspect is the ability to recognize someone else’s emotions. A few of the activities embedded in the course give students the ability to work on this.

The third aspect is “the ability and desire to understand the emotions.” Berardi said that while you may see someone expressing that they are happy, you might not necessarily understand why.

The fourth and final part of the equation is realizing that other people’s emotions aren’t your own. Separating your own opinions is vital to the process.

Through the Empathy Project, Brennan said he has seen an increase in civic engagement and young adults realizing their roles in the community. According to Brennan, these former students are willing to help and defend others.

Brennan hopes that in the long term, the project will cause a decrease in bullying and violence. Another long term goal is to change the way people learn so they retain information better.

For Berardi, the most surprising impact of the project was the relationships she was able to form with her students.

Berardi said students have given her handwritten thank you notes and others have reached out for additional advising and support.

“It’s so cool to be able to make that deep connection,” Berardi said. “I had a student say, ‘In a place as big as Penn State, it’s awesome that there are others who think just like me.’”

Ally Yuscavagi took the course recently. Yuscavagi (senior-rehabilitation and human services) found out about the Empathy Project through an email sent out by someone in her college.

“I realized when I was reading it that it would benefit me in what I want to do career-wise,” Yuscavagi said.

Yuscavagi described her time in the course as “fantastic” and remembered it as a “really rewarding experience.”

The fact that the course is voluntary is something Yuscavagi finds very special.

“It wasn’t a gen ed where people just wanted to get through it,” Yuscavagi said. “All of us were interested in seeing how we could improve.”

Yuscavagi said the biggest lesson she learned was the importance of listening to others.

“Having somebody try to understand what you are going through and not fix it, and just listen is something we don’t do enough,” Yuscavagi said.

How to Teach Empathy to Adults

Focus on ‘Empathy’ has been going around for quiet sometime in the education world, and it’s not hard to see why.

Empathy is an essential skill that makes an individual a responsible and helpful community member at school and elsewhere. This can also be a pathway to academic and career success, because it helps people understand and work with others. Students who posses empathy tend to be more engaged in classroom, have higher academic achievement, better communication skills, less aggressive behaviors or emotional disorders, do not bully others and build more positive relationships.

This isn’t something that children have been born with but they naturally have the capacity for empathy. They just learn how to notice, listen, and care by watching and listening to adults and peers, and they take cues from people about the importance of empathy. From teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers to administrators, and others – all of them play a crucial role in helping students develop and display empathy. However, it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of hard work to build empathy. You can build empathy by just teaching them in the right way.

Here are some strategies teachers around the world use to teach both effective and cognitive empathy to their students:

Model Empathy:

You may present yourself as a role model to your students, by giving example that shows students the power of empathy in relationships. Through examples you can model how to be positive when learning, then students mirror optimistic and confident learning behaviors. If not, you can do a thorough research and share the most effective examples with your students to teach empathy. You may recommend or display few videos to your students; it can also provide many great examples for students to model empathy on.

Design a curriculum that teaches active listening:

When it comes to promote empathy, active listening can be a great approach. You may design a curriculum that promotes active listening. Pocket Empathy is one such example (recommended by SSDS teachers) . It is an exercise that teaches 3rd graders the skill of ‘active listening’. This exercise entails pairing with a partner and following specific prompts such as eye contact when your partner is speaking, not interrupting in between and making insightful comments that acknowledge a student has been applying his or her whole self to what their partner is saying.

Teach Point of view:

Teaching students about different point of views for the very same thing can be an effective learning tool and can foster empathy by encouraging students’ curiosity. For instance, use the numbers like 6 and 9 to teach students about different point of view. First, have your students look at the number 6 and then the number 9. Now stating an example, like, the exercise came from ancient time where two princes were at war for many years. One prince looked at the image on the table and said it was a 6, while the other prince found it to be a 9. For years the battle raged, and one day when the princes were seated at the table a young boy turned the tablecloth around, and for the first time, they could see the other’s point of view. The war came to an end, and the princes became firm friends; using this example teach them about different point of views or perceptions.

Use Literature to Teach Different Perspectives:

It might sound different, but using literature can be a great tool to help students see a situation from different perspectives. For example, Jon Scieszka in his book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, makes a solid point against what we think of the story, in general. When we read the story, we sympathize with the pigs because we see the wolf as a voracious villain, but is it possible to see the story from the wolf’s point of view? That’s exactly what he undertakes in “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs”. Similarly, you can use such examples to teach different perspectives and help develop empathy at the same time.

Create Empathy Maps:

Every year a new group of students enter into schools, each with their own and individual set of wants and desires, pain, fears, frustrations and preferences, making it difficult to recognize their needs in order to empathize with them successfully. So, it’s better to draw empathy map. It is a powerful tool that will provide intuitive insight into who your students are and how could you help them. You can simply create an empathy map, providing a particular situation and asking questions, like:

What do you think and feel?

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you say and do?

All these will enable them think critically about how others would feel in a situation.

Besides all of these, we have enlisted five best lessons (below) for further help:

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How to Teach Empathy to Adults

It can be quite challenging to teach empathy to students, since the concept is quite abstract. The line between sympathy and empathy is quite blurred, and even explaining the subtle difference between the two to adults can be difficult.

The dictionary definition doesn’t help much, either, as it is rather vague, simply reading as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. We’re going to show you three ways that you can teach empathy to your students, whether they’re in kindergarten or in the 12th grade.

Read on to learn more.

Creating an Empathy Map

Research has shown that the easiest way for students to grasp the concept of empathy is to empathize. This is one of the main reasons why educators should always promote active learning.

‘Empathy Maps’ are a great way to incorporate this kind of learning into the classroom to help students understand empathy, and the idea was created by the Solomon Schechter Day School. It involves partnering students up to create ‘thorns’ and ‘roses’ as a way to represent positive and negative emotions.

The students will then place their thorns and roses onto various areas on a board, placing them into the categories of See, Feel, Hear, and Think. This promotes a kind of critical thinking about how another person would feel in a given situation, which helps them understand empathy.

Use Literature as a Way to Teach Perspective

Literature is another resource that can help students understand empathy, as it teaches them about the perspective of others. This is another strategy for active learning. For instance, we all know the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’.

In it, we tend to be on the side of the pigs, because all they wanted to do was escape the wolf, who just wanted to blow their houses down and eventually eat the pigs. He is seen as the villain.

However, in the retelling of the classic story by Jon Scieszka, the wolf did not purposely try to blow the pigs’ houses down. Instead, he was suffering from allergies, and when he stopped by the pigs’ house to borrow some sugar, he let out a powerful sneeze and blew the house down.

Teaching Point of View

It can be beneficial to teach your students that almost everything in life can be looked at from different angles. Take a coin, for example. Ask two students to hold it between themselves – with one looking at the heads side and the other looking at the tails.

They’ll understand that, while either of them can only see one side of the coin at a time, they both know that the coin has two sides and that the other student is seeing the side that they cannot. This will teach them that empathy and point of view go hand-in-hand.

You could also have a class discussion to talk about the importance of understanding that people will have conflicting opinions simply because they are looking at things from a different point of view.

James Langan

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One of the Empathy Project groups planning out empathy education activities.

Courtesy of Mark Brennan

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Penn State faculty members Mark Brennan and Mary Kate Berardi believe that empathy matters — which is why they are leading Penn State’s “Empathy Project.”

For about three years, the Empathy Project has sought to teach teenagers and young adults empathy and all that comes with it. It started in Ireland and came to Penn State about a year and a half ago.

The project was the brainchild of Brennan and Pat Dolan. Brennan serves as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization chair in community, leadership and youth development at Penn State, while Dolan is the UNESCO chair at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Berardi, a UNESCO graduate fellow, came along later in the process. She said though the program educates young adults, the Empathy Project was originally just meant for high school students.

Currently, there are two versions of the program — one that educates students ages 14-18 and another for college students aged 18-25.

Berardi is responsible for training high school teachers and counselors how to go about teaching the course.

The project consists of a four-week, non-credit course designed as an empathy education program made to dispel the myth that empathy is just “giving out hugs,” as Brennan put it.

Brennan said he has found that the more empathy a person has, the better they do in school, the higher their academic ceiling can go and the better person they are.

“We wanted to make sure that [empathy education] was pushed through the school system,” Brennan said. “There aren’t many education programs for it. [People] kind of assume that good people have empathy and bad people don’t.”

Brennan noted that “almost all” empathy education programs are geared toward young children in early elementary school. Brennan said this is part of the reason he and Dolan founded the Empathy Project.

The trio of Brennan, Berardi and Dolan worked together to design the program’s curriculum, make evaluations and determine the impact it had.

“Our goal is to teach empathy to every young adult in the world,” Berardi said.

Berardi also said the curriculum of the program is based around evidence and literature. It contains activities that make the students see how empathy is present in their lives.

“We want to get people thinking about empathy and how it relates to their lives,” Berardi said. “And also how you can apply empathy to climate change or social justice issues.”

Relating the class to current events is a common practice of the course. Berardi said one of her lessons focused on the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. She has been working on an online course that can encompass the current coronavirus pandemic.

One of the points Brennan and his colleagues try to stress is the idea that empathy is different than sympathy.

Students at one of the Empathy Project’s information sessions.

Courtesy of Mark Brennan

“Sympathy is good, you should feel bad for people — but empathy is that and then some more,” Brennan said. “It’s not only putting yourself in someone’s shoes, but acting on their behalf.”

The program encompasses activities and practices that allow participants to see what other people are going through, understand it, remove their judgement from the equation and then act on it. The students are also encouraged to keep a journal tracking their thought patterns.

According to Berardi, there are four components of empathy that relate to the course.

The first is the definition of empathy because “in order to fix anything, you have to be able to define it,” according to Berardi.

The second aspect is the ability to recognize someone else’s emotions. A few of the activities embedded in the course give students the ability to work on this.

The third aspect is “the ability and desire to understand the emotions.” Berardi said that while you may see someone expressing that they are happy, you might not necessarily understand why.

The fourth and final part of the equation is realizing that other people’s emotions aren’t your own. Separating your own opinions is vital to the process.

Through the Empathy Project, Brennan said he has seen an increase in civic engagement and young adults realizing their roles in the community. According to Brennan, these former students are willing to help and defend others.

Brennan hopes that in the long term, the project will cause a decrease in bullying and violence. Another long term goal is to change the way people learn so they retain information better.

For Berardi, the most surprising impact of the project was the relationships she was able to form with her students.

Berardi said students have given her handwritten thank you notes and others have reached out for additional advising and support.

“It’s so cool to be able to make that deep connection,” Berardi said. “I had a student say, ‘In a place as big as Penn State, it’s awesome that there are others who think just like me.’”

Ally Yuscavagi took the course recently. Yuscavagi (senior-rehabilitation and human services) found out about the Empathy Project through an email sent out by someone in her college.

“I realized when I was reading it that it would benefit me in what I want to do career-wise,” Yuscavagi said.

Yuscavagi described her time in the course as “fantastic” and remembered it as a “really rewarding experience.”

The fact that the course is voluntary is something Yuscavagi finds very special.

“It wasn’t a gen ed where people just wanted to get through it,” Yuscavagi said. “All of us were interested in seeing how we could improve.”

Yuscavagi said the biggest lesson she learned was the importance of listening to others.

“Having somebody try to understand what you are going through and not fix it, and just listen is something we don’t do enough,” Yuscavagi said.