Beyond listening and being sure that what we heard is what the other person meant by paraphrasing, the next step in empathy is to show concern. Showing or expressing our concern is a very visible way of showing that we care about the other person and their feelings.
We can do this by expressing our concern with words and offering to take action if they would like us to do so. We may say to a person who is sick – “I am sorry that you do not feel well. Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?” Our children can learn about expressing concern by practicing this and role playing it with their parents.
For instance we may ask them what could you say if one of your schoolmates was being bullied at school? When I asked this at our school many of the kids wanted to fix the problem with some sort of solution. “just ignore it” “walk away” were common responses. But for the other person to know that we care we may want to say, “ I am sorry those boys were picking on you. Would you like to play with me? or Would you like to hang out with me and my friends. Maybe they will leave you alone then? Or Would you like to speak to a teacher about what happened.
As we go into this year lets all of us see if we can express empathy for others. Doing so will contribute to the peace of ourselves, family, community and the world.