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Empathy can change how we feel
July 10, 2022

By Healthy Trailblazer Journal 8B staff | As a child, Dr. George James saw what it means to show empathy. 

He watched how his parents were kind to other people they knew. They made time for them, listened to them, and encouraged them. 

Empathy is “being able to feel what other people feel,” said Dr. James, who is the senior staff therapist and chief innovation officer at the Council for Relationships, based in the Philadelphia area. 

As an example, he said, if a classmate doesn’t show up in school for a few days, you could contact them to see if they are all right. 

You might learn something else is going on with them. “That’s one way of showing empathy, that I care about how you feel,” he said. 

You can also show empathy by being present for a friend who is experiencing joy or pain. 

“If your friend is winning, be happy for them,” he said. “When your friend is having a tough time, ask them how you can support them. … Maybe do something that you know that they would like.”

Empathy can help change the way people feel about themselves, according to Dr. James. If you are supporting someone, they may see they are not alone. It can help them heal because they realize they are not the only person dealing with a problem. 

“Empathy is just being able to say, ‘Hey, I want to be there for you, with you, celebrate with you,’” Dr. James said. “Whether it’s a grade, whether it’s a game, whether it’s something at home, being able to show that care can make a difference.” 

Empathy is also important in friendship. “Your friend is somebody that you know isjust always going to be with you,” he said. 

It’s also important, Dr. James said, to be agood friend to yourself: Show yourself compassion. 

“What thoughts do you tell yourself?” he asked. “No matter what your situation is at home or at school, make sure you are telling yourself, ‘I’m good. I’m smart. I’m talented. I’m capable.’ Your thoughts really impact how you feel and your behavior.” 

If you have negative thoughts, such as thinking you can’t do something, it’s important to tell yourself that those thoughts are not true. It’s important to go back to your positive thoughts. Remind yourself that you are smart and capable. And, he added, if you don’t know how to handle a challenge, ask for help and support from a friend, family member, teacher, or another trusted adult. 

You should tell yourself, he said, “I can accomplish whatever I want to if I put my mind to it.” 

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