Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WHAT IS EMPATHY?

WHAT IS EMPATHY?

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"Empathy"… to understand another person's point of view,
emotions, thoughts, feelings
 
Empathy is the most important characteristic in human relationships.

Empathy allows us to listen without judgment to what a person is saying, doing or feeling. It permits us to imagine what someone else is experiencing without having had the experience.

Being empathetic does not mean that we have to agree with the other person or relinquish our point of view. Nor is it about self-sacrifice. Empathy is about standing in another person's shoes without getting stuck in them.

Empathy is a skill that requires understanding — a skill learned over time. It takes years to develop, and deepens and expands as we get older. To have empathy, we must have intellect, listen, and be self-reflective and in touch with our feelings.

Without empathy, there is no compassion. Empathy is the highest level of moral development. A person who totally lacks empathy has no conscience and is capable of committing horrific acts against others —child abuse, serial murder, genocide.

Our children need to learn that empathy is important and that it takes practice. We need to teach them that empathy helps us to relate and care for others. We have to help them learn the requisite skills necessary for developing empathy…

Thinking about ourselves and others

Reflecting on our own behaviors and feelings

Being in touch with our feelings

Listening to another person without anxiety and with minimal judgments

Since developing empathy is a complex process, parents (and teachers) must serve as role model for this behavior by displaying. We need to learn that yelling, threatening, hitting, or saying hurtful things to children is neither emphatic nor is a good foundation for their development.

Empathy is slow to develop and is learned in 10 - 15 year stages.

Developmental Stages for Empathy

Infants: Infants are totally self-directed and only know their own needs.

Toddlers: A child of two notices that other people can feel happy or sad when he or she does not.

10-year-olds: By 10, the child can imagine how he or she would feel in another person's situation, yet does not have the intellectual capacity to know or imagine how the other person is feeling.

Adolescents: In adolescence, young people start to think abstractly and are better able to grasp the concept of empathy.

Empathy, like any other skill, is a life-long learning process. It gets stronger and deeper with age and experience.

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