Responding is an important part of teaching empathy to your students. This is especially true for tough situations where students may not know how to respond to others appropriately. The skills of empathy can teach your students how to respond appropriately, no matter the situation.
Here are five tips to teach your students to respond empathetically:
- Offer help
- Control your emotions
- Take action
- Know when to withhold action
- Follow up
The first step for responding empathetically is knowing whether or not a person wants help. The best way to find out if whether or not to offer help is to ask the person if they need it. However, be prepared if the person says “no”. Teach your students that if someone needs help, it is then appropriate to offer them advice or support.
Control your emotions
Teach your students that in order to help someone else, they need to first control their own emotions. It is hard to help others or offer advice if you are being strongly or overly influenced by the other person’s emotions or situation. To help your students control their emotions when helping someone in need, teach them the following points:
- Take a deep breath before responding or offering advice.
- Remove yourself from the emotion you are feeling.
- Remind yourself that the person is in need and requires your help.
- Tell yourself that you are capable of giving good advice.
Once a person has accepted your offer to help, it’s time to take action. Sometimes knowing the right thing to do is hard. Have your students ask themselves, ‘‘If I were in this situation, what would I want someone to do for me?’ Teach them to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are trying to help and then take action, empathetically.
Know when to withhold action
Sometimes people just want to be left alone. Maybe they need time to sort out their problems on their own. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable talking about the issue. Whatever the reason, part of being empathetic means knowing when not to take action. Sometimes the most empathetic response is actually to do nothing at all.
Following up with someone in need is very important. It’s important to remember that the healing process is long. Even though someone may appear healed on the outside, he or she could still be suffering on the inside. Teach your students not to assume that everything is resolved just because it hasn’t been brought up in a while. Challenge them to reach out to the person and check in with him or her. As time goes by, people are often more willing to accept help from others.
Thanks for tuning into our series on teaching empathy to your students. If you want to learn more about developing or teaching soft skills, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.