Unified Caring Association (UCA) loves sharing with our caring community. The topics that we love to share often relate back to emotional intelligence. One component that is closely relates to emotional intelligence in empathy. There is just one troubling thing. We often have a hard time describing what empathy is and how we teach it to others. In our search for more information on empathy we have come across some great examples on how to bring more empathy to the world and our caring community. Let’s start from the top…
How can we define something like empathy?
In short, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of one or more people. We can take this definition a step further. We can add that we are then are able to express our feelings and connection with the others. This requires one thing, active listening with our whole being by using our eyes, ears, body language, minds, and more. This is because listening is a strong way to show that you care about the other person and the topic that they are passionate about. Brigette Hyacinth has a good point about listening, “The quality of our listening determines the quality of our influence…[and] listening transmits that kind of respect and builds trust.” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/empathy-most-important-leadership-skill-needed-today-hyacinth/) Overall, when we listen to others and understand what they are saying when they connect with us we demonstrate that we value others and have empathy for them.
Empathy and Denmark
There have been many studies about how Denmark is one of the happiest and nicest places to live. “This is according to the UN’s World Happiness Report, an important survey that since 2012 classifies the happiness of 155 countries in the world, and that for seven years has placed Denmark among the top three happiest countries on a global level.” (https://www.morningfuture.com/en/article/2019/04/26/empathy-happiness-school-denmark/601/) A big factor in this relates back to how people in Denmark seem to value and incorporate empathy in their lives. This can be seen through the prominent concept of “hygge.” Hygge is a phenomenon closely related to Danish culture; this word is both a verb and an adjective and does not have an English equivalent. “Hygge could be defined as ‘intentionally created intimacy.’ In a country where it gets dark very early in the year, it rains, it’s gray, hygge means bringing light, warmth and friendship, creating a shared, welcoming and intimate atmosphere.” (https://www.morningfuture.com/en/article/2019/04/26/empathy-happiness-school-denmark/601/) This is a fundamental Danish concept that creates a sense of well-being. Interestingly, hygge is becoming a global phenomenon! If you search for hygge on Amazon, you will get about 6,000 results, most of which are books. Instagram has more than Amazon, with #hygge racking up 5.2 million posts and counting! SO, how does a culture foster a concept like empathy so effectively? The answer: By teaching, learning and practicing from the ground up with kids.
Teaching Kids Empathy
Danish schools have a unique curriculum incorporated in their education plans. Students 6-16 years old spend about one hour a week in school dedicated to empathy. These lessons are called “Klassen tid.” This is a fundamental part of learning life skills for these students, much like learning English, science or math for U.S. students. During this hour “…students discuss their problems, either related to school or not, and the whole class, together with the teacher, tries to find a solution based on real listening and understanding. If there are no problems to discuss, children simply spent the time together relaxing and enjoying hygge.” (https://www.morningfuture.com/en/article/2019/04/26/empathy-happiness-school-denmark/601/) This time spent on exploration, problem solving and growth of emotional intelligence helps the students connect with each other through activities that build empathy. Unlike other places in the world, there is no stigma or stress connected to this emotion. The stronger the understanding of empathy the longer and more sincere the student’s relationships are. These enduring relationships correlate to the prevention of bullying and success at work.
Empathy is a Life Skill
As we said before, empathy helps people be successful in their careers. This is because they are able to connect with their peers, are more goal oriented, and adept at team work related tasks. If we look back at Denmark, 60% of tasks in schools are teamwork based. Thus these tasks require the children to understand empathy in order to achieve good results. However, the focus of these results is not to excel over others, but to lift up your teammates that are struggling with the tasks. The success of the team is therefore the goal that everyone is striving for. It is because of the students’ skills in empathy that Denmark is often touted as one of the best places to have a career in Europe.
Empathy is then coupled with the viewpoint that competition is with yourself and not with others. Instead, Danes practice the culture of motivation to improve and the measurement is exclusively in relation to themselves. This is vastly different from the prominent mentality in the U.S. where the goal is to beat the other person and to strive for a win even if it is at the cost of your peers. “The Danes give a lot of space to children’s free play, which teaches empathy and negotiation skills. Playing in the country has been considered an educational tool since 1871.” (https://www.morningfuture.com/en/article/2019/04/26/empathy-happiness-school-denmark/601/) Most of this is achieved through collaborative learning. This style of learning involves bringing together children with various strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. The teams of students then help each other with their studies by working together on various topics and projects. This format teaches the kids that they need each other to be successful and to connect they will need empathy. Jessica Alexander comments that, “Many studies show that when you explain something to someone…you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build empathy skills which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information, and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works.” (https://www.morningfuture.com/en/article/2019/04/26/empathy-happiness-school-denmark/601/)
The results are echoed by Avery Konda, who recently tried to explain the concept of empathy to kids. After trying to talk with children and pull out responses from them (which fell short of what he was looking for), he began to play with the kids. Through this play time with toys he helped the children discover deeper meanings of empathy. Konda concluded, “Students learn more from gamified activities that allow them to learn skills through application, more than they do through PowerPoints and traditional teaching…[They] take away more when they’re required to live and breathe the topic of conversation.” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-empathy-most-important-skill-world-today-avery-konda/?trackingId=ltUkZUWiNiFJLSRQ45YbyA%3D%3D) This is fascinating for all of us who are trying to excel in our careers, and for those that are raising children. If we all strive to listen closely to conversations with others and practice our teamwork skills, we can begin to strengthen our empathy skills. Building empathy takes time and consistent practice. If we look at how Danish culture has developed, we can begin to apply more empathy to our daily lives and continue to create a more caring world.
So many questions go through our minds as we think about our children. We want to make sure that our kids are able to handle all that life throws at them. Are they ready to take on life’s challenges on their own? (Or mostly on their own?) Are they able to focus on tasks? How quickly can they get back on track when they are distracted? These are a handful of questions that we ask ourselves and our children. All of these relate to one topic: is my child resilient?
When we type in ‘resilience’ as a Google search, we come up with the definition stating: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” This means that your kids know how to cope with their emotions and take action in spite of barriers, setbacks, or any other limitations that life throws at them. Resilience helps us measure and have the fortitude to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. How much we want to achieve our goals even if we need to overcome challenges to get there. It also requires emotional strength and emotional intelligence.
Is my child resilient?
As parents, we are constantly striving to protect our children. There ever-increasing reports about stresses that kids encounter in their lives, one of which is cyberbullying. Unified Caring Association has an easy and effective way to help keep our kids safe by assessing their resilience. Building up our kids’ personal resilience. Being resilient is one of the best skills we can pass on to them.
We have developed a simple tool to check on your child’s personal resilience by answering a set of targeted key questions about them, giving each answer a value between 1 (never) and 4 (always). Some example questions are:
-Believes in own abilities and competence?
-Can cope well with stress to bounce back?
-Shows empathy for others?
This tool is applicable to all age ranges. And much like our personal assessment tool, it is best to repeat this assessment over time to check in on the top needs your child has for building resilience.
Ready for the world filled with resilient caring.
Our children are filled with endless possibilities. With strong personal resilience, they are capable of creating a more caring world. Challenges will not shut them down, but instead help drive them to achieve their goals. We can all hope that they will continue to strengthen their emotional intelligence in an effort to help care for our communities, the world and each other. With tools like the UCA resilience assessment we can learn how to nurture ours and our children’s personal resilience, as well as learn how to pass along what it means to be resilient.
Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If your would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!
At Unified Caring Association we value caring acts that help improve the world, but what does the word CARING mean? We find that everyone has a slightly different definition of this word. We took the time to consolidate some of the answers we have heard and have them listed below that helps us convey how there can be more caring in the world.
C: Communication – in relationships, parenting, workplace, community
A: Actions – caring is a verb – action spreads caring in the world, like UCA’s caring challenge, caring family activities, care for planet, care for each other and self-care.
R: Respect – our planet, air, trees, water, animals and other’s life stories
I: Integrity – shared stories of caring heroes, truth and being authentic with our word
N: Nurturing – how to nurture the growth of caring in the world – caring encouragement and inspiration
G: Giving – tips on how to provide love, empathy, emotional support and caring to the world
There are so many other ways that we have heard to share caring in the world. It is our belief that the more caring there is in the world, the better place it will be for us all. And we need to spread caring more than ever! We love sharing the caring in our blogs like, It All Starts With Self-Care and Caring Challenge Recap. Or get a daily dose of caring on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and/or Tumblr.
Our intentions shape our reality. When we hold the intention of caring in our hearts we propel our lives away from apathy and toward caring connections. What we think, anticipate, hope or fear about an experience can feed it’s outcome. Tempering our attachment to a certain outcome and mindfully processing any concerns can open our minds and widen our range of experience and possibility. We infuse our energy into every outcome that we imagine, imprinting our energy into the experience. If we wish to experience greater happiness, we must infuse with caring!