Empathy is the building block of kindness. It skips sympathy and pity as our motivation for kindness and brings us to acts of kindness that are based on an appreciation of another person’s circumstances. Empathy engages the authentic and genuine concern we can have for someone else. It helps us to bear another person’s burden and walk in their shoes a little. And it often gets reciprocated and copied. That's the ripple effect...
Here’s what we mean by empathy:
Here’s an activity that’s a really basic, deliberate way to develop and practice empathy:
The Mirror Image
- Break your class into pairs. (First go: let them choose someone they’re friends with or comfortable with. Second go: encourage to pair up with someone they don’t really know or haven’t had a lot to do with.)
- Explain the two roles for each pair:
- Face each other about a metre apart.
- One of you is the initiator and one of you is the mirror.
- The initiator makes any body movement they like: waving arms, jumping, shaking/nodding head, hands on head, arms folded. You’re only limited by your imagination. (1 – 2 minutes)
- The mirror imitates those movements as accurately as possible.
- The only conditions are you maintain your one metre space and you maintain EYE CONTACT.
- Now try this:
- Get your initiator to hold their right hand, open palm facing out from their right shoulder.
- Slowly extend your arm and push your open hand forward.
- Ensure the mirror follows the same action with their left hand.
- Hands meet half way between the pair.
- Get the pairs to swap roles and repeat. A variation of 6 is to use a pointed index finger ET style.
- In a quick debrief, make note of the smiles that occurred, the eye contact and how these actions are really basic acts of everyday kindness.
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Random Acts of Kindness
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