Character Chats

How do we use our empathy to show compassion?

This month’s word of the month is compassion.

Our social-emotional learning program here at True Balance Karate is called True Character. Every month we have a word of the month and this month we’re talking about compassion.

Compassion means that when you feel bad, sad, or mad I want to help you to feel better.

It starts with empathy

We start out with learning a little bit about empathy, and we want to help you explain what empathy is to your kids.  Empathy is understanding how somebody else feels. Some people like to call that “walking in somebody else’s shoes.”

If somebody falls and skins their knee, do you know how that feels to fall and skin your knee? Yeah.

If somebody is crying and sad, do you know how it feels to cry and be sad?

If somebody is mad about something going wrong, do you know how it feels to be mad?

That’s what empathy is. Empathy is understanding how somebody feels and you’re almost able to kind of feel that yourself. Somebody falls and skins their knee, you can almost feel it yourself. Like, “Oh, I know what that feels like to hurt my knee.”

How to use empathy

We’re going to talk a little bit about how we can use our empathy.

How do we understand how somebody feels? First thing is looking at their face. I know that’s been a little difficult lately with masks and everything, but you can start to tell in their eyes. So we can look at somebody’s face to understand how they feel.

What do they look like when they’re happy? They’re smiling. What do they look like when they’re sad? They’re frowning. What do they look like when they’re surprised? The eyes come up, they look excited. What do they look like when they’re mad? I think we all know that we’ve all made our parents mad at some point, we know what that face looks like.

So we can use our empathy. Understand how somebody is feeling just by looking at their face. By looking up, paying attention, and understanding, “Oh, that’s how that person’s feeling.”

Feeling multiple emotions at once

Now for my older kids we take that little step farther.

You want to make sure you’re using that empathy and understanding people can feel more than one thing at a time. People can feel both mad and sad. They could be sad that they lost a pet and mad that their pet is gone at the same time. People can be both happy and sad. People can be scared and angry.

People can be multiple emotions at once, and by looking at their face we can really help read what that is. We also want to understand that maybe we’re having fun, we’re playing a game, and then we look up at our friend’s face and we realize they’re not really having fun anymore. Now it’s time to use that empathy to understand how they’re feeling.

Body language

There’s more than one way to understand how somebody is feeling. We can also understand by looking at their body language, how they’re carry themselves, what they look like.

What does it look like when somebody’s sad? Yeah, everything kind of drops, they kind of look down, their body kind of hangs low.

What does it look like when somebody is excited? They come up kind of tall, maybe even on the tip toes, their whole body looks like it’s standing up tall.

What does it look like when somebody’s mad? Tense, everything sort of tightens up, and you can see what it looks like when they’re mad.

What does it look like when somebody’s happy? Usually open. And what is it like when somebody’s friendly?

Know how they’re feeling before they say it

So we can tell a lot about how someone is feeling by what their body looks like and what their face looks like. And we want to use those clues well ahead of what somebody says to us.

We would like to know how they’re feeling before they say it. A lot of people don’t say how they’re feeling directly with their words, but if you look at them in the eyes, and you look at their face, and you look how they’re walking, you can get a feeling about how they’re feeling.

Empathy is one part of compassion, but really compassion is the emotion we feel when others are suffering that makes us want to help.

There’s a formula for compassion: empathy plus action equals compassion.

We defined empathy this week — how we can understand how somebody feels. Now action is the part that goes along with that and we’re going to talk a little bit about that in the coming weeks.

Thanks and we’ll see everybody on the mat.
– Master Helsdon