Letter: Empathy needs more encouragement

Published May 29, 2014 5:17 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a school counselor at a middle school (aka the best time in life), I find that many skills can be useful to adolescents. The application of deodorant, how to use a locker, make friends and talk to girls, coping skills and much more.

By far and away the most important thing I try to teach my students is empathy, a very critical skill that is important for all stages of life. It combats bullying, loneliness, depression, increases community, brings happiness, wins friends, decreases prejudice, racism and inequality. In a time when religiosity and spirituality have taken hits — often replaced by Facebook, Twitter and their narcissistic crew — empathy can be a force of good for all. In our society that's ever more divided between rich/poor, progressive/conservative, we need empathy to bring insight, understanding and dialogue.

You and I can begin today. Actively try to imagine what others are feeling/thinking. Meditate. Read fiction and identify with the characters. Have a chat with someone with different views and sincerely listen. Next time someone pushes your buttons, rather than react, be proactive and push pause, breathe and see the situation from their perspective. What's the downside?

Jared Buhanan-Decker


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