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04.03.2016

Passing Empathy to Our Children

Open Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird and one line will jump out at you: “You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Can empathy be taught? Children in the main will pick up how to treat other people through what is going on in the home, some will be hard wired to do this, some will not. So for those children perhaps on the spectrum or with negative home experiences can they be trained?

98% of people have the ability to empathize but may not use it or cultivate it when dealing with other people.
The most powerful way to make someone think of another is to ask them, “What would you do, if you were that person?”.  This type of considered reflection is the only way to get people to think about another’s perspective and not to jump to assumptions and conclusions in the ‘judgment state’ as we all do. If the ego is constantly operating at a high level, the ability to tune into other people’s feelings or views on things will be low. Using real listening is a key way to understand someone, listening not to respond, but listening to understand. If we can cultivate this, we can cultivate real care in how we deal with people.

Companies are developing empathy training as a module. I had a recent discussion with a young man working in technology who told me his company had just recruited an Empathy Manager, a role which lay somewhere between HR and the role of the MD, almost like a mediator rolled into a psychologist. Is this a nod at the fact that hierarchical management doesn’t work anymore and that the more feminine attributes associated with empathy need to be brought to bear more in companies? As we are supposedly in a world wide conscious shift, empathy will most likely become a big player in this change.

As mothers passing on empathy is part and parcel of our cachet of responsibilities, even through the haze of a 50-hour week. It can be done. I feel if my son can understand and navigate people, he will excel in business or whatever fields he chooses. There are plenty of people with straight A’s that have no social skills or empathy skills, which can contribute to failing to master group situations.

If we don’t pass on empathy we are building a team of adults that are only geared toward the functional aspects of life and not the powerful emotional side of their nature and capabilities.

If they are too functional they will only follow the tired old autocratic systems built – in the main – by men and the current broken systems will prevail. If we instill empathy and purpose they will navigate life so much better and understand compassion and the power ‘within’ as opposed to ‘above’.

Point in hand: my son had a geography exam recently and was trying to move his grade up from a C to a B. I knew he could do it and helped him with his study techniques. The day the result was due I picked him and his friend up from school. He didn’t say anything in the car and neither did I. When we got home he bounded into the kitchen and said “Mum I got the B !”, I was delighted but asked him why he hadn’t told me on the way home in the car. He said his friend hadn’t got a good result and he didn’t want to mention his B in case it was uncomfortable or would upset him. I was blown away. At 12 he understands sensitivities, as opposed to brinkmanship.

That to me instilling empathy is a mark of true success as a Mother (asides from the good grade).

Jane, an admirer of the brand and wearer of success.

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