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Empathy 101

Hannah Borowsky |

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Lesson #1: Feel. Imagine. Do. Share.
Ashoka Fellow Kiran Bir Sethi talks about the role of empathy in design and problem-solving. Empathy is not simply about feeling for another person: it’s how we distinguish the real problem from its superficial effects, involve those served in the solution itself, and encourage others to feel the same way.

Lesson #2: Parents – Start by sharing, not by asking
Empathy is something we can intentionally cultivate, not teach directly, says Ashoka Fellow Mary Gordon, Founder of Roots of Empathy. For parents, that begins with sharing your own feelings and experiences, which grows with children’s emotional literacy.

Lesson #3: Live it.
Real social change begins at home, says Ashoka Fellow Eric Dawson, Founder of Peace First. So next time you ask, “how are you?” pause before rushing off without hearing the answer.

Lesson #4: Validate every voice.
Author, noted academic, and one-time high school English teacher, Tony Wagner shares the key to building empathy in every student.

Lesson #5: Transform the helped to helper.
The key to cultivating empathy? Enable others to pay it forward, says Ashoka Fellow and founder of Time Banks, Edgar Cahn.

Lesson #6: Build Relationships. (Hint: Differences are a good thing.)
How to Change the World author David Bornstein shares the key to moral imagination.

Lesson #7: Practice before you teach.
Forget formulas and textbook responses: empathy is about listening, says Teaching Empathy author David Levine. And that begins with teachers’ relationships to their students.

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