Teaching Empathy

October 31, 2017 18:44 |

Making an introduction to teaching and practicing empathy.

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As Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird character Atticus says to his daughter Scout, "First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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." His simple and eternally sound advice to his daughter about empathy is guidance for us all. I always like To Kill a Mockingbird because it made me think about my life and relationships. It was so easy to get caught up in myself and my own problems that I never really thought about others and their feelings. Empathy was an important lesson for me to learn because it strengthened my relationships and made me more in tune with my own feelings. Now, my empathy is one of my most proud characteristics!

There is simple guide to using empathetic language, it is called “I Statements”. When facing a conflict or uncomfortable situation, it is important to use descriptive and non-judgmental language. Some ways you can start your statements are:

- I saw… (and describe what happened)
- I felt… (and describe how you felt when whatever happened above happened)
- I need… (describe what you would like or need)
- I request/ask… (make a request for the future)

An example of using this empathetic language, would be if you were excluded from a gathering of friends.

- I saw that I was invited to the get together the other day. (Simple description of the situation)
- I felt sad. I thought we were friends.
- I need to know if I have done something to make you mad.
- I ask that in the future you let me know when you’re mad at me.

That last one is especially difficult, but very important! It’s just like anything, it might feel weird and awkward at the beginning, but with time you will get used to it. Soon you will be able to confront any uncomfortable situation like a communication pro!

Remember to be empathetic, Atticus would be proud.

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