Empathy Leads to Respect

Empathy involves understanding and respecting the opinion, idea, or feeling of another. To have empathy, we must think about what it would be like to be in another’s position. When hearing an opinion, we must think about the situation the other person is experiencing to understand what might be leading to that opinion. As we listen to the idea of another person, we must seek to understand what might make it a good idea to that person. We must understand the feelings of another by thinking of what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes. Empathy means sharing a feeling with someone which is a closer experience of the feeling than sympathy which only focuses on feeling sorry for someone. Empathy can lead to action by showing compassion, compromising, or supporting that person. Empathy leads to respect. The following steps aid in showing empathy:

  1. Make Eye-contact
  • Eye-contact shows respect
  • Eye-contact shows you’re listening
  • Eye-contact shows that what the person is saying is important to you
  1. Listen
  • Listen for opinions
  • Listen for ideas
  • Listen for feelings
  1. Reflect: say, “I hear you saying…” and repeat in your own words what you hear the other saying
  • Reflecting what you hear ensures you understand
  • Reflecting what you hear shows you understand and respect what the other is saying

Empathy in Action
You can show empathy every day.

  1. At lunch and recess
  • Think about how someone being excluded might be feeling
  • Act out empathy by never speaking to or about someone rudely
  1. In group projects
  • Respect the ideas of others
  • Respect that each group member depends on other group members to do their best
  • When a group member shares an idea or opinion, say, “I hear you saying…” and repeat what you heard in your own words
  1. When there are differences
  • Recognize we all have different experiences and qualities
  • Respect differences in culture, traditions, and beliefs
  • Affirm differences appreciating how diversity makes communities stronger

Modeling Empathy
As parents and educators, we can model empathy by using teachable moments to encourage perspective-taking. Asking questions such as, “How do you think they feel when that happens?” or “I wonder what it would be like to have that happen?” Using the phrase, “I hear you saying…” can show students and other adults that you hear what they are saying and it can encourage students to express themselves clearly. Students can learn empathy when adults model and encourage it.

Click here for a printable version of this article to share.