Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
The skill of empathy, or showing sensitivity to others' feelings, is one of the underpinnings of friendship. Children with emotional or social delays often need to be taught empathy directly. Adults who work in a social environment also use empathy; it can mean the difference between a client who feels understood and taken care of, or a client who feels alone and unheard. Some businesses therefore include empathy training as part of their training programs.
One way to help people develop the skill of empathy is to encourage them to connect facial expressions to the emotion that they communicate. Present them with a number of pictures of people expressing various emotions, and ask them to identify what the person in each of the photos is feeling. They can then choose several of these photos and discuss a scenario that may have led the person in each photo to feel that emotion. For example, if one of the faces looks panicked, the participant might say that it was caused by seeing a child nearing the edge of a pool.
Don't Be Judgmental
In this activity, participants should write down three values that they believe are incredibly important in their own lives. They should then choose one of these values and imagine someone who lacks this value, and ask themselves questions about how this could be true. What upbringing might have led this hypothetical person to reject this important value? What event may have shaped this person's viewpoint to be different from the participant? How would the participant interact with this person and empathize with a viewpoint that goes against this value? Answering these questions can enable participants to move into another person's mind and lower their judgmental feelings toward people who are different from them.
Role playing can also help participants to demonstrate empathy for another person's struggles. For example, one person might have the job of telling a second person about a difficult experience that he has just gone through, while the second person does not show empathy. That might mean interrupting the speaker, brushing off the speaker's feelings as illogical, or speaking in a non-empathetic tone. A replay would give the listener a chance to really listen empathetically, mirroring back the speaker's feelings and experiences and naming the speaker's emotions so that he knows that the listener actually understood him. This activity can help identify the many important factors in listening empathetically, as well as some common pitfalls to successful empathetic listening.
Empathy for Disabilities
Many different activities can be helpful in developing empathy for people with various disabilities. For example, trying to complete a task blindfolded or with earplugs in can help a person to feel empathy for those who have hearing or visual impairments. Giving a participant a long list of items to remember verbally can help them understand the frustration of those who are given a task that is beyond their capabilities, due to a learning or intellectual disability. Participants can also try to navigate a building while in a wheelchair or answer questions using only two-word sentences in order to get a glimpse into how difficult everyday activities can be for those with physical or mental disabilities.
How to Fix a Relationship After Cheating
Examples of a Positive Attitude
How to Get Someone to Stop Ignoring You
How to Not Be Inconsiderate
Why Is Distraction a Barrier in ...
Barriers to Effective Listening
How to Live in Harmony with Others
Boundaries & Expectations Exercises
Five Benefits of Attentive Listening
How to Have a Relationship With Someone ...
Can Two Emotionally Unavailable People ...
The Effects of Lack of Communication in ...
Verbal Communication Tools
How to Use Reflective Listening ...
List of the Top Ten Most Common Emotions
Importance of the Brother Sister Bond
Examples of Types of Conflict
How to Deal With an Argumentative Spouse
Activities to Teach Children to Hear ...
How to Cope with Competitive People
Keren (Carrie) Perles is a freelance writer with professional experience in publishing since 2004. Perles has written, edited and developed curriculum for educational publishers. She writes online articles about various topics, mostly about education or parenting, and has been a mother, teacher and tutor for various ages. Perles holds a Bachelor of Arts in English communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images