How to Grow Empathy in Teens

Education For All

Cultivating empathy in children and adults sounds abstract, but it can be done. Setting a good example is just the beginning of the journey of teaching how to empathize. Understanding emotions or what other people feel, feeling emotions, and responding appropriately to them are important components in empathy.

Empathy talks about the analogy of how you wear someone else’s shoes. By feeling what they feel, you can see a problem from their point of view. Not just from your perspective. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we experience are sometimes so overwhelming. As a result, when faced with a situation that involves other people, our responses tend to be reactive. So, empathy needs to be trained. The root of good social skills is empathy.

In principle, the steps to foster empathy in children and adults are relatively the same. No need to take formal training, you can even start from everyday life. Here’s how.

Helping Others Recognize Their Feelings

When someone close to you talks, instead of commenting, try to show empathy by helping them recognize how they feel. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re telling you, validating their feelings is an important step in empathy. For example, “So sad to find out that mom has a serious illness.”

Reflect On The Feelings Of Others In Yourself

Imagine how other people feel about yourself. How do they feel? What’s their mood like recently? By reflecting on these feelings in ourselves, we are learning to understand how their point of view is on the problems they are experiencing.

Use “I” Messages In Communication

Starting a conversation with “I” messages will help you build self-awareness of the situation at hand. Instead of making comments that trigger misunderstandings, try to express your feelings appropriately.

Focus Your Attention On The Other Person

Sitting quietly listening is better than talking too much. When they are talking, focus on them. Don’t hesitate to display body language as a sign that you are 100% present for them.

In empathy, solutions are not the end goal. Practicing empathy will hone social skills so you can build and maintain better relationships with others.