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The Power of Empathy in the Workplace

We’ve all had those moments of pure attention, when it seems everyone in the room is attracted to your energy. Yet for many of us, that place is difficult to tap into. Your mind races with nervousness about something previously said and you worry about what to say next, each distraction lessening the power of your interaction.

The key to success in these moments is empathy. This ability to understand and relate to others is a powerful skill that takes work, but in mastering it, you can better both your personal and professional interactions.

Related: Use these five elements of psychology to improve your writing.

The Power of Empathy

Empathy is about establishing trust by outwardly recognizing what someone else is experiencing. It’s difficult for people to fully engage in any interaction if they don’t feel that they are being heard and understood.

Think about how free and open your interactions are with close friends and family. Your conversations are super productive because you have each freed yourself to fully engage.

However, at work or in our other day-to-day interactions, we are naturally cautious. We withhold information, we don’t ask the tough questions, and it’s much harder to make decisions or resolve issues. That generally leads to subpar outcomes.

Four Steps for Practicing Empathy

1. Observe: Pay attention to voice, tone, body language, and the situation.
2. Listen: What feelings and emotions are being conveyed?
3. Interpret: What needs are behind those feelings and emotions?
4. Share: Openly state what you think you understand about the other person and ask for feedback to make sure you’re right.

Straightforward, right? Not exactly.

Why Listening is Scientifically a Struggle

Being a good empathizer is largely connected with being a good listener.

Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, explains that it’s a struggle to focus in attentive moments because listening is far from a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do, and empathetic listening can power some of the most fundamental functions of your workplace.

If you struggle with listening, you are not alone. Renowned author and journalist Michael Pollan examined this difficulty in his recent book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.

Pollan found that a major area of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN), which acts as an overseer keeping brain operations in check, is most likely the very operator that makes active listening so difficult.

How the DMN Works

The DMN is what kicks in when you have nothing to do. And it seems to be responsible for the construction of what we call the self or ego. It’s all that noise that comes pouring in when you’re in idle; the flood of thoughts about the past and future and myriad distractions that we often feel powerless to overcome. It can become who we are. It also leads to rumination and self-referential thinking, which is not conducive to empathy.

The DMN is powerful, but you are not powerless to resist it. Attention, focus, and active listening help quiet the ego, allowing you more effective listening.

Try this: Consistent meditation, even just 10 minutes a day, has been shown to decrease activity in the DMN, which then leads to better empathy.

Practicing Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy in the workplace is something I encourage the team at D Custom to actively practice. Here are some of the things it can power.

Empathy and Negotiating

While Voss’ FBI negotiations might not be the first place your mind goes in wondering where and how empathy might be better understood and applied, it is paramount in their field. As he notes, when preparing for a negotiation, it’s more important to concentrate on demeanor and state of mind rather than what you will say or do. This is empathy in all its glory.

Empathy and Trust

Empathy establishes trust, and establishing trust enables more productive working relationships. By practicing empathy in the workplace, you will expose goals and concerns more readily. And you cannot resolve issues until that comes from both sides.

Implementing empathy to build trust starts with recognizing people’s fears and validating them without passing judgment or offering a solution. If you do that in a consistent way as a team member or leader, you will get all manner of engagement from your team.

Empathy and Creativity

Empathy is about a genuine connection, and active listening is a gateway to thoughtful collaboration. Ideas come to light in a creative environment, and an attentive approach helps increase input so much that possibilities expand in a way they would not have otherwise.

Empathy can be a force for powerful relationships. From persuading groups to negotiating with terrorists to growing a fruitful community of coworkers, empathy emerges as an imminent provider of success. It’s wired into our psychology to the point that we can’t resist it. So be present and empathy will follow. From that, the possibilities are boundless.

By Paul Buckley

Source: The Power of Empathy in the Workplace | D Custom

 

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Empathy Technologies Like VR, AR & Social Media Can Transform Education – Jennifer Carolan

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In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker makes the case for reading as a “technology for perspective-taking” that has the capacity to not only evoke people’s empathy but also expand it. “The power of literacy,” as he argues “get[s] people in the habit of straying from their parochial vantage points” while “creating a hothouse for new ideas about moral values and the social order……..

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/22/empathy-technologies-like-vr-ar-and-social-media-can-transform-education/?_scpsug=crawled,5589,en_-08GtGMBhGHHyg2UGQFp

 

 

 

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Empathetic Listening Can Improve Health Care & Treatment Recommendations – Maggie Leung

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It is critical for physicians to respond appropriately with empathy to support families during a difficult time. Care conferences are discussions held between physicians and families to discuss medical treatment plans and decisions, and often involve high-stake decision-making, which can be emotionally stressing for the family. Past studies have found that physicians in the adult ICU setting do not commonly show empathy, and are often missing the opportunities to connect with families of the patient. However, this has not been well studied in the paediatric ICU setting……

Read more: https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/empathetic-listening-health-care-treatment/?_scpsug=crawled,5589,a595796b0106017107cbe36f9e8b6be20b1145e02188c642bf3d56958fa54748#_scpsug=crawled,5589,a595796b0106017107cbe36f9e8b6be20b1145e02188c642bf3d56958fa54748

 

 

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Why Qualitative Analytics Is Your Key Tool For User Empathy – Appsee

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Empathy. We’ve heard that word time and time again, but at the end of the day, it’s easy to forget about it. Even though you spend hours trying to get into your user’s head, when dealing with piles of usability dilemmas, performance problems, and other annoyances, empathy gets pushed to the bottom of our list. The reason is that empathy is a tricky term to define, and it’s hard to push it into a mold of an executable method for UX best practices. That’s where qualitative analytics comes in.

Why is empathy so important? It’s the key to creating a winning app through every step of the creative process, from ideation to release. Apps are meant to make people happier and/or improve their lives, so the concept behind an app is rooted in empathy. From there onwards, user experience design, UI, and retention are all improved when the team maintains empathy towards the users, walking a mile in their shoes.

You can’t feel empathy towards numbers.

Qualitative analytics adds a human face to the numbers and graphs of mobile app analytics. When looking at a graph showing an uptick or a downturn in user retention, how much can you really tell about your users? More importantly, can you really imagine their experience of using your app? Many mobile professionals have sat in front of computer screens, staring at graphs and trying to guess what made their users behave as they did. Traditional quantitative analytics can show you the numbers behind your users, such as the quit rate on a certain screen, but analytics need something more to help you understand why you’re seeing those numbers.

Why qualitative, why now?

App users are becoming more complicated. As smartphones become more and more popular across different ages, backgrounds, and locations, mobile analytics have to take more variables into account. The task of drawing conclusions from statistics is hard enough, and becomes even more difficult as more parameters — and more people — are added to the equation.

Qualitative analytics offers a solution that takes all the power of quantitative analytics and adds a human element: actually following users as they embark on their journey through an app. Empathy at its finest. Instead of relying on reviewers and beta testers, every member of the mobile app team can use qualitative analytics to see their app “in the wild”, and make sure that it’s running smoothly.

How does it work?

Qualitative analytics includes two main features that add a human, personal layer to mobile analytics. One is user session recordings, which show videos and step-by-step breakdowns of every user action, every gesture, and every tap a user makes. This makes it possible to walk alongside your users step by step as they explore your app. You see every interaction and response, and whenever your users get lost in the app, search for something that can’t be found, or expect the app to behave a certain way, you’ll be right there to observe and then try to understand why they did that.

The second is touch heatmaps, which aggregate all user gestures into graphics that remove all guesswork from the decision-making process, pointing to usability issues such as unresponsive gestures, navigation flaws, and unclear microcopy. Touch heatmaps give a more bird’s-eye point of view of your app’s usability and UI, and removes the need to draw conclusions from numbers alone.

Without qualitative analytics, you would be forced to look at graph upon graph of aggregated data, and guess your way into your user’s mind. Qualitative does away with the guesswork and makes it easy to put yourself in the user’s shoes, making empathy accessible and frustration-free. These highly visual, highly personal tools bridge the gap between the people behind the app and the people using it, enabling developers and designers to see their work in action and improve it quickly, efficiently, and without second-guessing their decisions.

Empathy should be a two-way street.

The good news that qualitative analytics bodes for companies is that empathy can go both ways. Qualitative analytics doesn’t just help increase empathy for the user, but also extends it to the entire team. A look at the various business and project management trends of the past few decades will show that we are constantly on the lookout for new ways to increase our productivity, efficiency, and teamwork, as well as the satisfaction we get from our work. Qualitative is more than just another productivity hack: it opens us up to a whole philosophy based on empathy, of focusing on our needs as well as the users’, and of understanding the deeper questions of why and how.

When used right, a qualitative analytics platform can make life easier for every single person working on the app, from the marketing intern and the junior developer just hired last week to the senior product manager and the founder and CEO. The abilities of qualitative analytics can be used not only by UX designers, but also by developers, marketers, and product managers. Devs can follow the steps a user took that led up to a crash. Marketers can follow up on in-app ads and how users interact with them. Product managers can get an all-encompassing look at their app’s usability, popularity, and growth. By adopting a qualitative analytics tool, all team members can gain insight into their day-to-day work, reducing guesswork and uncertainty, making better decisions faster, and reaping the fruits of the labor as they visually see their app improving.

A few more words

A lot has been said about empathy and UX, and now it is time for empathy to make its big breakthrough into the rest of the tech world. When we think and talk about our end users, our business partners, and our team, empathy can be the difference between a good app store review and a bad one, an energized team and a demoralized one, or a win-win situation and, well, the other thing. By helping you to understand your users with empathy, qualitative analytics will treat your team with empathy too, by reducing frustration, cutting down on hours spent on guesswork, and improving teamwork and communication.

 

 

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How the Mirror Neuron System Regulates Empathy – Angela Nino

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How do we understand others when we haven’t experienced what they’re going through? How are we able to share in the joy and sadness of those around us? Why do some people seem so adept at suspending personal judgment, seeing through the masks we wear to the authentic self?

Science believes they’ve discovered the part of our brains that makes this important human connection possible. Let’s take a look at what they’ve discovered.

What Is the Mirror Neuron System?

Scientists have found that each of us has a highly specialized group of brain cells called mirror neurons. Their role in the body is to learn about things by mimicking them. It’s how we each learned to speak, eat or do anything.

In terms of empathy, we learn how someone is feeling by reflecting the emotions that we see in others.

Sometimes this mirroring even takes on a physical shape. You may have noticed how a very empathic person tends to turn toward the person they’re connecting with. They put their devices down, giving their full attention.

They may even mimic body movements like facial expressions, crossed legs, posture or hand gestures without being consciously aware they’re doing it.

How the Mirror Neuron System Regulates Empathy

When someone with a very active mirror neuron system sees someone who’s grieving or nervous (fearful), for example, they can actually feel it too through this reflection process. They respond by trying to comfort the person feeling these uncomfortable emotions. In doing so, the person being comforted often begins to feel a little better.

As the subject of the empathy feels better, the empathic person feels better as well.

How the Mirror Neuron System Becomes Disrupted

At a very basic level, the brain works on an internal reward system. When we do things that our brain considers good for us like exercise, the brain releases endorphins (happiness hormones) into the body.

Research shows that when we use the mirror neuron system to show compassion, our brain releases these hormones. Not only does the empathic person feel better because the person they’re connecting with feels better, they feel good because their brain released endorphins into the body.

This system may become disrupted if in the past their compassion was met with distrust, fear or even negative consequences. This may have happened in their family home. It may have occurred during a long-term, abusive relationship. Or they may have worked in an unempathic work environment.

A person can learn to deactivate this part of their brain because of the negative external consequences for using it.

A person with a less active mirror neuron system might be referred to as emotionally “numb”. This “numbness” may even be encouraged in a company.

A manager may consciously or subconsciously reward people who appear “thick-skinned” and “unaffected” in respect to their work environment. They perceive this person as more productive. However, Research shows the opposite is true.

How the Mirror Neuron System Is Strengthened

It’s a nature versus nurture argument question. Studies show that around 50% of empathy is neurological while the other 50% is cultivated through the environment.

A person in a healthy, empathic work environment can strengthen this dormant part of the brain. Consistent positive re-enforcement is needed. Creating a safe place where people can express themselves is essential. An organization must demonstrate empathy throughout the leadership ranks to cultivate it.

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The Science Behind Empathy And Empaths | Empathy Magazine

As a psychiatrist and an empath, I am fascinated by how the phenomenon of empathy works. I feel passionately that empathy is the medicine the world needs right now.

Empathy is when we reach our hearts out to others and put ourselves in their shoes. However, being an empath goes even farther. Like many of my patients and myself, empaths are people who’re high on the empathic spectrum and actually feel what is happening in others in their own bodies.

As a result, empaths can have incredible compassion for people–but they often get exhausted from feeling “too much” unless they develop strategies to safeguard their sensitivities and develop healthy boundaries.

In my book, “The Empath’s Survival Guide” I discuss the following intriguing scientific explanations of empathy and empaths. These will help us more deeply understand the power of empathy so we can utilize and honor it in our lives.Read more…

Source: The Science Behind Empathy And Empaths | Empathy Magazine

 

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Self Empathy is Becoming Aware of Our Own Feelings First Than Others – BW Online Bureau

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There  is important element in the craft of conversation is Self Empathy. Over the past two decades a growing number of thinkers  have suggested that extending empathy towards other people, particularly in conversations, requires a degree of self empathy. If we cannot empathise with ourselves they believe, we will lack the psychological foundations necessary to contact with others.

Advocates of self empathy typically describe it as becoming aware of our own feelings and needs, and not constantly beating ourselves up and judging ourselves too harshly (e.g. not blaming ourselves, feeling guilty, or being consumed by a sense of failure). In some fundamental way, self empathy is about being good to yourself and liking who you are.

Despite its increasing popularity, I am skeptical about the notion of self empathy. One reason is that it strikes me as conceptually flawed. The central meaning of empathy for more than a century, has been about breaking out of the boundaries of the self, and comprehending the feelings and perspectives of other people.  It is about looking through their eyes rather then staring into your inner self – that is, empathy concerns outrospection rather than introspection.

A second reason is that it makes the meaning of empathy too broad and indistinct. Once empathy becomes associated with the whole gamut of ways in which we think about our own self worth and internal emotional landscape, there is a danger that it looses its analytical byte and potential as a clear guiding concept for individual and social transformation.

Just as we believe the word empathy should not be simply equated with acts of kindness and every day generosity, and it should also not be watered down to cover the various aspects of what has been described as self empathy.

But this is not to say that how we feel about ourselves is unimportant for our ability to bond emphatically with others. It is just that we need another word. What are the contenders? One is self compassion a term that like self empathy has emerged since the 1990 as a product of our individualist culture, but that may have firmer conceptual foundations.

Drying on Buddhist notion of compassion, psychologist Kristin Neff defines self compassion as having three components; self kindness – being kind and understanding towards oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self critical; common humanity – perceiving once experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating; and  mindfulness – holding painful thoughts and feeling in balanced awareness rather than over identifying with them.

As with self empathy, however, we find self compassion a some what confusing idea, because the linguist origin of compassion is to share in the suffering of another person. The second component of Neff’s definition touches on other people suffering but not the first or third.

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How Can You Improve Your Empathy? 3 Science-Backed Techniques To Help You Feel More In Tune With Those Around You – JR Thorpe

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Few people would disagree that empathy is a good thing to have. But for some people, the ability to “feel” or share in the emotions of others, and understand them as if you were experiencing them yourself, doesn’t come naturally. And while it’s been suggested that this feeling is what makes us “truly human,” it’s OK if you want to improve your empathy.

Empathy is not only useful as a human emotion in and of itself; it can also help us become better listeners, managers, partners, and even increase our happiness as a result. What’s most interesting, though, is the emerging theory that empathy can in fact be learned. It’s not static; you can actually make yourself more empathic.

How empathic are you to begin with? There are a variety of tests available to assess how much you identify with others, but one of the most popular is the Empathy Quotient or EQ, which was developed in 2004 and consists of 60 questions you have to rate, such as, “I can tell if someone is masking their true emotion.”

Being too highly empathic can also have its difficulties; for one, it makes it nearly impossible to watch movies based on cringe humor, but for another, it can mean that your own emotions become clouded by what other people are thinking and feeling. If you’d like to increase your empathy a bit, though, science has some ways to help out.

1. Hang Out With Strangers More

In 2015, a group of Swiss scientists confirmed what might seem relatively obvious: humans learn more empathy when we spend time hanging out with new people. Having positive experiences with social groups that have different experiences than we do helps break down the idea that our experiences are different at all, and creates a better link with others.

 

2 . Experience Stress For Yourself

For a long time, it was assumed that all stress made people react in ways that got them away from the stressful situation, either by retreating into themselves, battling it head-on, or running away. Now, however, we know that a specific kind of stress doesn’t follow this pattern; instead of prompting people to hide away from others to protect itself, it seems to cause an increase in empathy.

A study in 2017 found that when you’re stressed out doing a task (and are told you’re doing it wrong), your brain’s “empathic circuit,” which helps you imagine the pain and emotions of others and connect them to your own feelings, show more activity. In the study, 60 male undergrads were put through a stressful test while being given negative feedback, and then shown images of other people undergoing a painful procedure.

The more stressed they’d been by the process, the more empathetic the subjects felt towards the people in the images, even though they were strangers. The study shows that just undergoing a kind of stress, even if it’s a different experience than the person you’re hoping to empathize with is undergoing, can help you build more empathy — so it’s not as simple as going through the same thing as someone else.

 

3. Make More Friends — And Go Through It Together

An experiment at McGill in 2015 found that our sense of empathy has a literal effect on our experience of pain. In the experiment, people were asked to put their arms into ice water in the presence of others doing the same, either strangers or friends, and rate their discomfort. Oddly, when friends were doing the same experiment, people rated their own pain as higher — not because empathy is painful, but because when we empathize more with someone, such as a friend, it seems to make us literally feel (or believe we feel) other peoples’ pain.

However, it didn’t take very much for an empathetic bond (measurable by the response to discomfort) to form. Just 15 minutes playing a video game with strangers changed them into people who could literally feel each others’ pain — thanks to empathy.

Lesson: to increase a sense of empathy, it’s important to be open to new experiences, both the good and the bad. Your friends, family, and partners — as well as the strangers who will one day become friends — will thank you.

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How To Teach Your Kids To Care About Other People – Caroline Bologna

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As deep-seated divisions, vitriol and disturbing news fill headlines, many people are wondering what happened to the qualities of empathy and kindness in our society.

In the same vein, many parents are wondering how to raise kids who will be a force for love and goodness in the face of bitterness and hate.

HuffPost spoke to psychologists, parents and other experts about how to instill empathy in children.

Talk About Feelings

“The gateway to empathy is emotional literacy,” said Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and the author of numerous parenting books, including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

A simple way to foster emotional literacy is by promoting face-to-face communication in the age of texting and smartphones. “Digital-driven kids aren’t necessarily learning emotions when they pick emojis,” Borba said. “Make it a rule in your house to always look at the color of the talker’s eyes because it will help your child tune in to the other person.”

Another key aspect is teaching kids to identify their own emotions early on. “Use emotional language with kids. Say things like, ‘I see you’re really frustrated,’ or, ‘I see you’re really mad,’” Laura Dell, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Education, told HuffPost.

“Before children can identify and empathize with other people’s feelings, they need to understand how to process their own feelings,” she continued. “Once they can identify their own emotion, they’re better able to develop those self-regulation skills to control their own emotions ― and then take the next step to understand the emotions of others.”

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Ravi Rao, a pediatric neurosurgeon turned children’s show host, believes parents should teach feelings as much as they teach things like colors and numbers.

“You’ll see parents walking through the park and taking every opportunity to ask, ‘What color is that man’s jacket?’ ‘What color is the bus?’ ‘How many trees are there?’” he explained. “You can also practice emotion by saying things like, ‘Do you see the woman over there? Does she look happy or does she look sad?’”

Rao also recommends playing a “guess what I’m feeling” game at home by making happy or sad faces and asking your children to identify the emotion. “You just get their brains in the habit of noticing the signals on other people’s faces.”

Once kids have a better sense of emotions and how things make them feel, you can ask them about the emotional perspectives of others. “You can ask things like, ‘How do you think it made Tommy feel when you took his toy?’ or, ‘That made Mommy really sad when you hit me,’” said Borba.

Use Media To Your Advantage

Watching TV or reading books together presents another great opportunity to cultivate empathy, according to Madeleine Sherak, a former educator and the author of Superheroes Cluba children’s book about the value of kindness.

“Discuss instances when characters are being kind and empathetic, and similarly, discuss instances when characters are being hurtful and mean,” she suggested. “Discuss how the characters are probably feeling and possible scenarios of how the situations may have been handled differently so as to ensure that all characters are treated kindly.”

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Borba recommends engaging in emotionally charged films and literature like The Wednesday Surprise, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Set An Example

Parents need to walk the walk and model empathy themselves, noted Rao.

“Kids will pick up on more things than just what you say. You can say, ‘Pay attention to other people’s feelings,’ but if the child doesn’t perceive or witness you paying attention to people’s feelings, it doesn’t necessarily work,” he explained.

Rao emphasized the importance of parents using language to convey their own emotional states by saying things like, “Today, I’m really frustrated,” or, “Today, I’m really disappointed.” They can practice empathy when role-playing with dolls or action figures or other games with kids as well.

It’s also necessary for parents to recognize and respect their children’s emotions, according to Dell.

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For kids to show empathy to us and others, we need to show empathy to them,” she explained. “Of course it’s tough as a parent trying to get multiple kids to put on their clothes and shoes and get out the door to go to school in the morning. But sometimes it makes a difference to take that pause and say, ‘I see it’s making you really sad that we can’t finish watching ‘Curious George’ this morning, but if we finished it, we wouldn’t be able to make it to school on time, and it’s really important to get to school on time.’”

“It doesn’t mean you have to give in to their wants all the time, but to recognize you understand how they feel in a situation,” she added.

Acknowledge Children’s Acts Of Kindness

“Parents are always praising children for what grades they got or how they did on a test. You can also boost their empathy by letting them know it matters to develop a caring mindset,” said Borba, noting that when children do things that are kind and caring, parents can stop for a moment to acknowledge that.

“Say, ‘Oh, that was so kind when you stopped to help that little boy. Did you see how happy it made him?’” explained Borba. “So your child realizes that caring matters, because you’re talking about it. They then begin to see themselves as caring people and their behavior will match it.”

Expose Them To Differences

“Parents have to help their children grow up and thrive in a diverse society through education about and exposure to others who are different, whether culturally, ethnically, religiously, in physical appearance and ability or disability,” Sherak said.

There are many ways to expose your children to the diversity of the world ― like reading books, watching certain movies and TV shows, eating at restaurants with different cuisines, visiting museums, volunteering in your community, and attending events hosted by various religious or ethnic groups.

“It is also important to follow up such visits and activities with open discussions and additional questions and concerns, if any,” said Sherak. “It is also valuable to discuss differences in the context of our children’s own environments and experiences in the family, at school, in their neighborhoods, and in the larger community.”

Parents can urge local schools to promote cross-cultural awareness in their curricula as well, said Rao.

“We also just have to eliminate jokes about race and culture from our homes,” he added. “Maybe back in the day making jokes about race like Archie Bunker seemed acceptable and part of what the family did when they got together on holidays. But that actually undermines empathy if the first thought a child learns about a race or group of people is something derogatory learned from humor. It can be very hard to then overcome that with other positive messages.”

Own Up To Your Mistakes

“If you make a mistake and behave rudely toward someone who messes up at a store checkout, for example, I think you should acknowledge that mistake to kids,” said Dell. After the bad moment, parents can say something like, “Wow I bet she had a lot on her hands. There were a lot of people at the store right then. I should’ve been a little kinder.”

Acknowledging and talking about your own lapses in empathy when your kids are there to witness them makes an impression. “Your child is right there watching, seeing everything,” Dell explained. “Own up to moments you could’ve made better choices to be kinder to the people around you.”

Make Kindness A Family Activity

Families can prioritize kindness with small routines like taking time at dinner every night to ask everyone to share two kind things they did, or writing down simple ways to be caring that they can all discuss together, said Borba. Playing board games is another way to learn to get along with everybody.

Borba also recommended volunteering together as a family or finding ways that your children enjoy giving back.

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If your kid is a sports guru, then helping him do arts and crafts with a less privileged kid might not be the best match, but you can find other opportunities for face-to-face giving that match their interests,” she explained. “Help them realize the life of giving is better than the life of getting.”

Families might also consider writing down their own mission statements, suggested Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist and author of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain.

“[It’s] a set of ‘we’ statements that express the values and virtues you commit to live by ― for example, ‘We show kindness through kind words and kind actions’; ‘We say we’re sorry when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings’; ‘We forgive and make up when we’ve had a fight,’” he explained.

Lickona also recommended holding everyone accountable to the family values at weekly family meetings centered around questions like, “How did we use kind words this week?” and, “What would help us not say unkind things even if we’re upset with somebody?”

“When kids slip into speaking unkindly ― as nearly all sometimes will ― gently ask for a ‘redo,’” he said. “‘What would be a kinder way to say that to your sister?’ Make it clear that you’re asking for a redo not to embarrass them, but to give them a chance to show that they know better. Then thank them for doing so.”

Another piece of advice from Lickona: Just look around.

“Even in today’s abrasive, angry, and often violent culture, there are acts of kindness all around us. We should point these out to our children,” he said. “We should explain how kind words and kind deeds, however small ― holding the door for someone, or saying ‘thank you’ to a person who does us a service ― make a big impact on the quality of our shared lives.”

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What Is Empathy & How To Cultivate It – Vivian Manning

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Some folks are able to watch the latest racist incident or school shooting unfold on the news late at night, roll over and go right to sleep. Yet, plenty of others can’t watch the news past dinnertime, for the pain and agony they witness seeps too deeply into their skin and all hope for sleep is lost.

The cause for taking the suffering of others so personally? The blessing and curse of empathy. According to Dictionary.com, “empathy” is described as “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.”

Roman Krznaric, author of “Empathy: Why it Matters and How to Get It,” describes the difference between empathy and sympathy: “Sympathy is feeling pity or sorry for someone, but without that extra step of grasping what that person is going through, or how they are experiencing the world,” he says.

Being an ’empath’ versus being empathetic

There’s also a difference between feeling empathy for others and being an actual “empath.” Judith Orloff, MD, author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” identifies as an empath and describes them as “emotional sponges who are so sensitive, they tend to take on the stress of the world.”

The gift of feeling empathy, or being an empath, is that you care deeply for others and want to help, says Orloff. However, the downside of empathy is it can be mighty exhausting. “Empaths have an extremely sensitive, hyperreactive neurological system,” she explains. “We don’t have the same filters that other people do to block out stimulation. As a consequence, we absorb into our own bodies both the positive and stressful energies around us.”

Is empathy a skill or an ability you’re born with?

Orloff says the ability to feel empathy is a little bit psychological tendency and a little bit neurological wiring. “It’s hypothesized that empaths may have hyperactive mirror neuron systems (the compassion neurons in the brain) and they work on overdrive feeling compassion,” she says.

According to Krznaric, your capacity for empathy is likely a question of nature and nurture. “Research suggests that about 50 percent of our empathic capacities are genetically inherited and the rest we can learn, because empathy is not simply a matter of wiring,” he explains, adding that adversity can also lend itself to the development of an empathetic nature.

“I recently met a stand-up comic who has lived with cerebral palsy all her life. She has an amazing empathy with people who not only have physical disabilities, but who get marginalized by society in other ways,” he says.

Orloff also mentioned how adversity contributes to an empathetic nature: “A portion of empaths I’ve treated have experienced early trauma such as emotional or physical abuse, or they were raised by alcoholic, depressed or narcissistic parents, potentially wearing down the usual healthy defenses that a child with nurturing parents develops.”

Empathy can be a struggle in this society

David Sauvage, an empath performance artist who consults with corporations and entrepreneurs on building more empathetic cultures, says the basis of empathy is emotional self-awareness — which isn’t a skill fostered by today’s achievement-driven culture.

“The average person in our culture doesn’t have much empathy toward others because we prioritize everything other than emotional well-being,” he explains. “How often are boys told to ‘suck it up?’ How often are girls told they’re ‘acting crazy?’

How many times during the course of the day do we feel like we shouldn’t feel a certain way, so we hide our sadness only to feel shame around that sadness? There’s no healthy balance between the negation of people’s feelings and the acceptance of people’s feelings. The only way to cope is to disassociate,” explains Sauvage.

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