Empathy is a word that also means understanding. With empathy, you can get inside a person’s head and understand them more clearly and completely. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had more empathy? Think about how different your classroom would be if your students learned and practiced the skills of empathy on a regular basis.
Luckily, empathy is a skill that your students can develop. How? Here are five ways to teach empathy to your students:
- See things from the other person’s point of view
- Evaluate feelings
- Practice self-awareness
- Read nonverbal communication
Let’s take a closer look at how you can teach these skills to your students.
See things from the other person’s point of view
Teach your students to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. That’s what we tell people when we want them to see things from another person’s point of view. The only way to truly understand what others are going through, or why they think or act a certain way, is to see things the way they see them.
Here are three simple steps for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes:
- Think about what that person has going on in his or her life. If you don’t know, ask.
- Think about how you would act if you were in that specific situation.
- Talk to the person about the situation and find out why he or she handled it in that way.
Listening is the most important part of communication, and a key part of understanding other people. Listening is not the same as simply hearing. When you truly listen to someone speak, you stop what you’re doing and direct your full attention to the person talking. Listening takes effort and focus. You must focus on the person talking in order to process, or understand what is being said, and have the ability to respond in a thoughtful way. Teach your students the following tips to help them listen empathetically to others:
- Put away distractions (i.e. phone, laptop, etc.) when someone is talking
- Look at the person talking
- Do not interrupt the speaker
- Use respectful body language
- Ask questions to understand
- Repeat a phrase or word the person said
- Avoid judgment
When your students understand what it means to truly listen to someone else, you can take understanding one step further and teach them to evaluate a person’s feelings. Empathy means that we understand not only the words being said, but the ideas and the feelings that go with the words.
Sometimes feelings are easy to detect. If a person is crying, you can tell that he or she is obviously sad. However, not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve. Here are some ways to teach your students to evaluate others’ feelings:
- Be careful not to put your own feelings in place of someone else’s.
- Talk about the other person’s feelings, not your own.
- Try to read between the lines and go with your gut. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, go the extra step and ask.
Teach your students to practice self-awareness. You see, empathy is built through an understanding of oneself, or self-awareness. The more your students understand their own thoughts and feelings, the more they can understand someone else’s. The more open we are to our own feelings, the more skilled we become at reading someone else’s feelings.
Read nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication or messages are very powerful. In fact, nonverbal communication is more powerful than verbal or spoken messages. So what is nonverbal communication? Nonverbal communication is made up of facial expressions, or the look on a person’s face, and body language, or movements. Picking up on these nonverbal cues will help your students to fully understand what the speaker is saying. This deeper understanding of others will further strengthen their empathy for people.
Thanks for tuning in to our post 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.