Teaching Empathy

Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.

Empathy is vital for a civilized society to thrive, yet it is not necessarily instinctive and sometimes needs to be taught.

In Denmark, a nation that has consistently been voted the happiest in terms of the quality of life for its citizens, empathy is taught in schools from a very young age. Introduced in 1993, a mandatory program called
“Step by Step”, begins as early as pre-school.

Children are not born with racism or hate or suspicion, they learn those terrible traits from society. So why not teach them how to stay kind instead?

“Step by Step” shows kids images of other kids in different emotional states; sadness, anger, fear, frustration, happiness, confusion and so on. The students then talk about what they see, what the other child is feeling and what they think it would feel like to themselves.

They learn the life-affirming skills of how to read facial expressions and body language of problem solving, self-control and of course, empathy.
Teaching non-judgement is also essential, they are to simply recognize the emotions they see and respect those sentiments.

The Danish go even further with an anti-bullying programs that encourage kids to talk about bullying and teasing and to learn to become more caring to each other. It has yielded such positive results that 98% of teachers say they would recommend it to other institutions.

And it has been proven that empathy is one of the most important factors in fostering successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers and businesses.

While history, science and math are important, the Danish understand that empathy is a necessary life skill that will empower a person and take them farther in life than numbers and facts ever will.