What do people think about the concept of empathy? How often do you discuss the concept of empathy with family and friends? A quick review of the tag “empathy” on Flickr produces an interesting variety of images that give an idea of what others are thinking about this concept.
During the first year of life, babies in the Lower Mainland can take part in the Roots of Empathy programme. In this programme, a mother and child visit young children in an elementary class over the course of the year. The programme is designed to reduce levels of aggression amongst school children by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. By all accounts, the programme has been a remarkable success. The children, and the baby and mother taking part, benefit.
The Emotionally Intelligent Schools website, based out of Yale University, focuses on creating school-wide programmes that encourage recognition of emotions, understanding the cause of emotions, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions. At a time when there is concern that increased usage of social media increases rates of narcissism in users, there is a heightened need to talk about the need for empathy in our social interactions.
Although it may come as a surprise, the very young are capable of showing signs of empathy. In the following video Dr. Marc Brackett discusses how to teach children social skills, including the ability to experience another person’s emotions. However, Dr. Brackett advises that empathy may be taught from age two and up.
As an adult, empathetic listening does not always come easily. Different people have different empathy skill sets, often due to their early years experiences. Whatever your capabilities may be, when you are tired and feeling stressed, or self-focussed, it is easy to be a poor listener and not empathetic. A video entitled “Got Service”, even when taken from a secular perspective, is a nice reminder that we should try to empathize more with the individuals in our midst, seeing them as members of our community rather than sources of aggravation and competition.
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For a nicely thought out entry on empathy, see the Demand More website.