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MAC Counselling Blog

Kindness & Empathy

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

What do you think are the most important traits to encourage in a child’s development?

This is an inherently personal question, one that will provoke a wide variety of answers from parents, educators, and researchers around the world.  There are so many traits and abilities that can add to a child’s likelihood of success that it’s hard to pick just a few.

Not only are there seemingly endless traits that could contribute to a child’s success, everyone has their own unique view on the ideal traits for a child (and, eventually, an adult) to possess.

I certainly don’t intend to tell you that the two traits I am about to discuss are the most important, but it could be argued that these two traits are among those most in need of encouragement in young people. Many assume that they will develop naturally in children, so any extra time spent encouraging them is time that could be better spent on studying math, practicing the piano, or playing basketball.

Fortunately, these two traits do often develop without any special attention paid to them but imagine how different classrooms, offices, organisations, and homes around the world might be if they were specifically targeted during childhood development?

I don’t think anyone would argue that the world would be worse off with more of these two traits, kindness and empathy, so why not give them a shot? 

While it’s important to begin instilling kindness and empathy early, it’s never too late to learn how to be more empathetic. 

Accurate Listening Exercise

The list below details the seven steps for accurate listening, a practice which is an important first step in showing empathy and compassion for others.

The steps are as follows:

  • You must concentrate on not talking, while the other person is talking.  Be sure to pay attention and to look directly at the speaker.
  • Be sure you are listening to the other person when he or she is talking, instead of preparing for your reply.
  • Make sure you are paying attention to how the person is behaving.
  • Be aware of the body language of the other person.
  • Let the other person know that you’re listening – for example, by shaking your head.
  • When the other person stops talking, try to paraphrase or translate what he or she said. Reflect what you think you have heard. This technique helps to ensure if there is a clear understanding.
  • Try to recognise the individual’s feelings – for example: “You sound angry” or “You seem to be upset,” etc.

Listening sounds like an easy thing to do but there is a big difference, in both process and outcomes, between simply “listening” without paying much attention and active listening.  Active listeningis the best way to connect with another person and is a vital piece of healthy relationships.

How to apply accurate listening to your life.

The instructions are as follows:

“Consider, for example, a person in your family or at work you have a different opinion to. The next steps below describe how you can practice reflective listening and really hear the other person in real-life situations. You can use this tool whenever you have to deal with, for example, a discussion or conflict between people.”

The five steps to applying accurate listening to a real-life situation are:

  1. Choose a person with whom you are having relationship difficulties or a person that you know holds different beliefs from your own, and really try to step into those shoes for a period of time. For example, try to imagine you are doing someone else’s work. You can note whether your ability to empathise changes based on seeing the other’s point of view.
  2. Think about the conversations that you have had with that person. Consciously check your own interpretations of what that person is saying.
  3. You can begin by focusing on them, and before moving forward, think about what would happen if you framed the conversation from the perspective of “I just want to make sure I understand you. Can I clarify?” Rarely do people say no to this.
  4. Clarify what you’ve heard by reflecting the meanings and feelings of the other person. You can check if you fully understood the other by asking.
  5. When you are speaking you can also ask the other person if he or she wouldn’t mind sharing what they’ve heard you say. Then, you can consider how you would correct the other if you feel misunderstood.



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