How often do we think about other people?
How often do we think about what your actions do to affect other people?
How often do we think about what it would feel like to be another person?
I’ve been thinking about empathy for a while after answering a tweet about misogyny with the phrase Empathy Lightbulbs – and what it takes for us sometimes to see life from someone else’s point of view…it can sometimes be a moment, an instant, a pivot-point which can help us – in a specific situation – to understand what it might be and feel like to be someone else.
For me, we can see injustice, inequality, unfairness, bullying and other general imbalances in a number of places in life and online yet often are unlikely to intervene or act on those imbalances unless we have experience of it OR unless we can feel empathy for the person being suppressed or oppressed in some way.
Empathy is something we don’t tend to learn about in a structured way but I believe we could learn a lot about society and each other if we thought about the moments that lead to a more empathetic understanding of another’s experience.
Creating such moments is what my Empathy Lightbulb idea is all about.
A study by Cambridge University in two London schools sought to see whether creating empathy in a design challenge could help a number of positive outcomes in terms of the designs developed, their creativity and the pupils’ understanding of empathy.
“We clearly awakened something in these pupils by encouraging them to think about the thoughts and feelings of others”
Helen Demetriou, affiliated lecturer in psychology and education at the Faculty of Education
Overall, the authors of this research suggest that these findings point to a need to nurture ‘emotionally intelligent learners’ across subjects, particularly in the context of emerging, wider scientific evidence that our capacity for empathy declines as we get older. “This is something that we must think about as curricula in general become increasingly exam-based,” Demetriou said. “Good grades matter, but for society to thrive, creative, communicative and empathic individuals matter too.”
How do we switch on Empathy Lightbulbs?
We’ve designed a number of tools and tasks to use to deconstruct empathy and create moments where we can begin to see life from another perspective – Empathy Lightbulb sessions can be tailored to the emotional needs of students at your school or college and will cover subjects including:
- sexism and misogyny
- healthy relationships
- diversity and inclusion
- interpreting media and news
Please don’t hesitate to contact us to ask about the hour-long PSHE / RSE / Citizenship / Character sessions which will are offered as virtual sessions for single hours and face-to-face for half days or more.
Here are some blogs I wrote about Empathy Lightbulbs, and our current thinking on the topic: