What Is Empathy?

Helping others when they feel bad is a way to show empathy.

Empathy is a word you might hear to describe someone who is kind, or who is a good friend to another person. We might say someone is showing empathy when they help someone in need. How can we get better at showing empathy towards others?

Showing empathy really begins with noticing and listening to others. Pay attention if someone is crabby, sad, or acting unusually. Noticing that something is wrong is the first step in empathy.

Next, you can use your past experiences to understand what they may be feeling. You might remember a time you didn’t want everyone to know an embarrassing problem or you might remember when kind words cheered you up. An empathetic person realizes that other people are a lot like them because they also have problems, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. However, not everyone might be cheered up by the same things.

You may wonder how you will know what to do next, once you understand someone is feeling sad. The secret is that you will have to ask and pay very close attention to their words and actions. You could say, “You seem like you’re having a bad day. Is there anything I can do to help?” Take the time to hear what they are saying. They may not want your company or your help. But you may have the chance to make a positive difference in their day.

What Do You Think? Think of a time when a classmate seemed to need a friend. What did you do?  What would you do the same? What would you do differently?

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