The Counselling Corner
Welcome to the Counselling Corner: A space where we will discuss all things mental health.
October was Mental Health Awareness Month and we focused on EMPATHY. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (whether you have experienced something similar to them or not). This is an active process whereby you empower another rather than becoming stuck with them in the unpleasant emotions by taking their emotions on as your own.During last week our High School and Primary School students were paired up with an ‘empathy partner’ and given the opportunity to develop their empathetic skills by getting to know their partner better and getting a glimpse of what it is like ton walk in their shoes. Various questions were posed which had to be answered by each ‘empathy pair’ to help encourage empathetic listening and understanding.Some questions included:
- You have been asked to relocate to a new location, and you can have no involvement in your old life. You are only allowed to take five possessions with you. What would you take and why?
- What is your favourite… food, colour, person, season, movie, song, animal, book, game, etc.
- What is your most precious possession?
- What is one of your most memorable experiences?
- What does a day in your life look?
- What object represents you, and what object would you say represents me (after learning more about me)?
- How would you describe happiness (what does happiness look like to you)?
- How would you define love?
- What is your greatest strength and weakness?
- What was a hard thing/season/experience you had to go through?
- What characteristic do you admire in me (your empathy partner)?
- What would you like your future to look?
- What is most important to you in life?
To conclude Empathy Week each student had the opportunity to literally walk in the shoes of their partner on Friday and share (with their class) what their partner’s life is like and what they have learned about them during the week.
For more information on empathy and Empathy Week at HIS have a look at the following video: https://youtu.be/8bgCr94k4J8
How to cultivate empathy
8 Strategies to develop empathy
Our ability to be empathic to others is not fixed; it can be developed. Making changes, often small ones, in our daily lives can significantly impact our ability to empathize with individuals and groups.
Develop an insatiable curiosity about the particulars of those you meet.
- Spend time with people you know less well, and ask them about themselves, how they are, and what their life is like.
- Follow people from many different backgrounds – religious, ethnic, political – on social media and listen to what they have to say.
- Be present with people when you talk to them. Recognise the subjects that make them passionate, happy, or sad.
- Visit new places, meeting local people while immersing yourself in their way of life.
Step out of your comfort zone
Learn something new or travel, and see how it feels to be out of your comfort zone:
- Experience what it is like to be unable to do something or not know how to interact with where you are.
- Reach out for support.
- Accept how helpless you may feel at times, and let it humble you.
- Humility can be a useful path to empathy.
Ask for feedback from friends, family, and colleagues regarding your active listening and relationships skills.
- How could you improve?
- What opportunities did you miss?
Examine your biases
We all have biases, and they impact our capacity for empathy. Often without knowing, we judge others on the way they look and how they live.
- Find opportunities to mix with people from other backgrounds.
- Talk to people about the important things in their lives.
- While recognizing the similarities we share, be interested, without judgment, in the differences.
- Donate to charities that provide support to other communities.
Walk in the shoes of others
- Understand what it is like for people in other situations. How do they live, work and share?
- Spend time with others, and understand their worries. What gives them happiness? What are their dreams?
- Build relationships with people you see but don’t usually connect with.
Difficult, respectful conversations
While it can be hard to challenge or be challenged by alternative points of view, a few simple lessons can help.
- Listen and don’t interrupt.
- Be open to new and different ideas.
- Apologize if you have hurt someone’s feelings by what you have said.
- Research the issue. Understand where a point of view has come from and how it affects the people involved.
Join a shared cause
Research has shown that working together on community projects can help heal differences and divisions and remove biases.
- Find a community project.
- Join others who have been through similar life experiences.
- Join a group from different backgrounds and help out at school, political or church events.
Reading fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, journals, and online content that captures people’s lives from different backgrounds increases our emotional intelligence and our capacity to empathise.
- Find writers with unique stories to tell.
- Enter the lives of their characters, their feelings and thoughts.
You are welcome to contact me with any inquiries, comments, or discussion topics you would like to see in The Counselling Corner.
Until next time. Keep well!