Character Chats

How Do We Show Empathy?

How do we show empathy?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called true character.

I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I was a classroom teacher for 15 years and have two master’s degrees in education. This program has been developed to best meet the needs of our youngest students of three and our oldest students of 84.


This month we’re talking about empathy and we started off talking about what is empathy?

How empathy is not sympathy, how empathy is not compassion. Empathy is understanding someone else’s feelings.

Then we talked about using our visual cues. Somebody’s facial expressions, body language cues, predicting how someone would feel, because we would understand how it feels.

Then we also talked about how you can have the same situation and two people feeling two different ways. How do we work on empathy that way when both people are feeling two different ways?

Being good listeners

This week we’re talking about how we show empathy and the greatest thing I can think of to show empathy is to just not talk, but to listen. Take a minute, show that you’re trying to understand how someone else is feeling, making eye contact and having our ears open.

We actually talk about those here at the studio from the standpoint of the four laws of concentration. We remind the kids to focus their eyes so that they can hear all the directions. We remind the kids to focus their ears, so their ears are open and they can hear everything that is being said. We remind them to focus their mind so that they are fully engaged in what information is being given. We remind them to focus their body so that they’re not fiddling with their belts, playing with their hair or touching their neighbor.

But the same can be said for how we show empathy.

If I’m looking right at you, I’m showing that you are my focus. That I’m trying to listen to what you have to say.

If I’m listening with my ears, if I’m asking pointed questions, if my phone is off, and away and upside down and not even in the same room, and I’m not playing anything on my phone, flipping through Facebook, reading a book, nothing. It’s not even in my hand, it’s showing that you are the most important thing right now.

It’s also helping my mind stay focused on the conversation. It’s also helping my body stay focused on the conversation.

So one of the greatest tools we can give to show empathy is those four laws of concentration.

Sharing and understanding

Another of those great ideas also has to do with sharing. I hear what you’re saying to me. I have felt as well.

When we can share after listening, that shows our empathy. That’s how we can demonstrate that empathetic nature that we all have.

When we take turns, when we work through, when we acknowledge how someone is feeling, that’s when we are helping to demonstrate that we can show empathy.

Again, empathy is not sympathy. It’s not, oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. That’s not empathy and it’s not compassion. It’s not, oh, we want to do something to make it better. It’s not that either.

It’s I see your struggle. I’ve struggled too. Or I see your joy. Your child just graduated from college, I see your joy. I have felt that too. It’s those kinds of things that help us demonstrate our empathy.

Empathy is not just some of the sad kind of words that go along with it. It’s also the joy, the excitement, the feeling of pride. It’s understanding those positives as well as some of the negatives that go along with it.

The more we can show that empathy using our four laws of concentration, using our eyes, using our ears, focusing our mind, focusing our body, showing the person that they are the most important person right now, the more we demonstrate that empathy and the more we can build a positive relationship with that person.

Building up good people

That has been our goal this entire month. How do we build empathy? How do we show empathy? How do we help our young students understand that other people feel the same as they do?

Because let’s face it. 4, 5, 6, 7 year olds are very, very selfish individuals and they need to be taught how to look at the world around them. But there’s also some adults that have not yet grown into that.

So what do we do for work life, home life, family life, other places? How do we use that listening skill? How do we speak with good purpose, as one of my friends would say.

As we’re hearing what people are saying to us, if we repeat it back, I heard you say this. I understand because I have felt helps to demonstrate more of that empathy.

Using those good purpose words and making sure that we are really paying attention to the world around us. That’s how we can show our empathy.

Thanks and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here