You may not actively think much about empathy in your day to day routine but, as an adult, you are doubtless aware of the concept and practice it in some form or another. The latest research now states that there are three different types. The counselors have been in classes talking to students about bullying and harassment and empathy is one of the key components of understanding that we try to impart. The three types are:
- Emotional Empathy – The ability to feel what others are feeling. This may be the “easiest” form of empathy and the typical starting place when trying to educate students about the concept. It often occurs in a young person for the first time as a result of seeing others show strong emotion, or when they experience large-scale tragedies (9/11, natural disasters, etc.)
- Cognitive Empathy – Just as the name implies, this is more of a cerebral/thinking process. It is the ability to appreciate and connect mentally, without reacting emotionally, to how another person sees a situation. Important because it leads to the last type…
- Compassionate Empathy – The ultimate goal. This is when emotional and cognitive empathy connect together and produce a desire to actually do something to help others.
We usually feel like we are doing a decent job if the kids connect to any of these ideas. Developmentally, many middle school students still struggle to think outside of their own needs and that is a key contributor to why bullying can be such an issue with this age group.