From Our Executive Director, Jacqueline Hicks (January 2017 Newsletter):
I say: Yes, and truly effective programs are using more than just empathy. Bullying behavior is increasingly problematic in our society, especially in our schools. Bullying behavior has been a part of most children’s experience since humanity began. I have been pondering memories of my own childhood, which include the hurt feelings I blamed on the harsh words or actions of others. I believed things like calling me names, teasing me, and making fun of me, were intended to exclude me and make me feel bad, which they did! Interestingly, I can’t remember my own acts of bullying, although I am certain that they occurred.
The power of empathy, as I see it, is being able to create a safe space for another person to fully explore and understand their own feelings and experiences. By remaining committed to the other person understanding him/herself, I may, but not necessarily, deeply understand their experience as well. In that commitment there is connection. If I find myself going to my own experiences or reacting with advice, sympathy, judgments, etc., that connection is broken and empathy is interrupted. Connection leads to compassion, and a relationship or link is formed between the two. For me to provide that kind of empathy, I also need congruence and unconditional positive regard. Congruence – the ability to responsibly, authentically and precisely identify my beliefs, thoughts, feelings and opinions – allows me the confidence that I know who I am and that I can always return to myself. I can therefore set aside my own ideas while listening to another. Unconditional positive regard is the ability to suspend judgments and truly appreciate, even treasure, the differences presented […]