Building empathy through connection – for kids and adults!
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | Interesting | October 6, 2020
With children and adults encouraged to practice social distancing, fostering meaningful connection through empathy is more important than ever.
The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society’s AnimalSmart™ program promotes a sense of responsibility and inspires connection with animals, the environment and one another.
All resources can be viewed or downloaded for free by going to animalsmart.ca.
What is empathy?
Have you ever heard the saying “put yourself in their shoes”? Well, that saying is all about empathy. It’s about understanding how the other person or animal feels from their point of view. You can think of empathy as the bridge between our feelings and the feelings of others.
When you empathize with someone, you feel with them.
To better understand empathy we can break it down into three parts: awareness, understanding, and caring about the experiences of others.
Awareness is another way of saying “paying attention.” It’s about noticing and understanding signs of how people and animals are feeling. You can look at their body language, their facial expressions, and you can listen to their words (in the case of people) and other sounds. Because animals can’t use words, it’s up to us to learn how to read their signals to understand what’s going on for them.
Understanding is being able to put yourself in someone else’s place and imagine what they might be feeling in that situation.
Caring is recognizing that what that person or animal is feeling is important and valuable and wanting to do something about it.
Why is empathy important?
Empathy is important because when we understand how others feel we have a better idea of what we could say or do for them. That makes us good friends to the people and animals in our lives.
Practicing empathy also supports us to become more caring, happy people and it improves our ability to solve problems. When we empathize with others we become better at regulating our own emotions and managing stress. And since empathy is all about connection, it helps to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
How to practice empathy
- Look at their faces, what their body language tells you and how they’re acting.
- Listen to their words (for people) and how they say it. Listen for crying and laughter, and also for barks, meows, growls and other sounds. These all give you a clue of what they might be feeling.
- Remember that empathy happens when we share in the happiness of others, as well. You can practice empathy by being a part of the joy, hope and excitement of others!
- Learn about other people and animals. How we are different is as awesome as how we are the same. Learning about others builds connections and fosters empathy.
Circle of Compassion
- Learn about your own circle of compassion and learn how you can broaden it even further. Click here for our video about Circles of Compassion.
Thank you for being a friend to animals and to each other. When we take the time to understand and connect with one another we are creating a better world for all.
To learn more, join Emerson and friends as they explore empathy in the newest video of our AnimalSmart™ Character Development series!
Hats off to you
To all kind-hearted and hard-working people at SPCA: hats off to you. I love animals and admire the work you do.