Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, your one-stop source for news about your son’s upcoming activities and events.

Weekly wellbeing links

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird)

Empathy is a “building block of morality,” a “key ingredient in successful relationships” (Greater Good Science Centre) and a characteristic of good leadership.

This charming animated video, narrated by Brene Brown, is excellent at explaining the difference between empathy and sympathy. How often have we skipped over empathy to try and make things better, or to “silver-line” what we’re hearing?

This article from Psychology Today lists six important facts about empathy and suggests “the best way to think about empathy is an innate capacity that needs to be developed.”

There are many ways to develop empathy. The first suggestion in this article is to read fiction. I vouch for this idea, having recently finished reading Charlotte’s Web (to the sounds of much sniffling) aloud to my children.

Shared Identity is a great activity for kids of any age, but would be especially powerful with older boys around current events.

This link offers science-backed strategies for intentionally teaching empathy skills. Here’s an empathy quiz. Maybe you could do this as a family and discuss your results.

In a Forbes magazine article titled “Is Empathy Dead?,” leadership expert Dr. Richard S. Wellins examines the role of empathy and leadership. Wellins states: “While there are many definitions of leadership, one way we look at it is the ability to have successful conversations.” He suggests “empathy is uniquely human. It cannot be mastered without face-to-face conversations.”

The World Economic Forum recently published this fascinating look at the role of empathy and artificial intelligence. There are too many thought-provoking insights in this article to choose, so I recommend reading it in full. The last line is quite chilling: “We always thought the threat of machines was that they would emulate us so well they would replace us. We never considered that it could go in the other direction.”

This CBC Radio interview on The Current features a conversation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and author Sherry Turkle about the relationship between technology and empathy. If you have time, listen to the entire interview to hear Turkle’s findings, or read this New York Times review of her book, Reclaiming Conversations.

If you don’t have time to hear the entire CBC interview, please just listen long enough to hear the introductory clip of comedian Louis C.K. The clip is edited down to the clean part of his chat with Conan O’Brien where he blames smartphones for interfering with empathy. In the not so clean part (which you’ll have to search for on your own) he tells the story of being alone in his car when Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland” comes on the radio, and how he purposefully distracted himself by texting friends in an attempt to stop the emotions that inevitably come with the song.

What C.K. is getting at is the requirement to be in touch with your own emotions so you can give space for the feelings of others.

Identify your “Jungleland” (mine is Adele’s “When We Were Young“), listen to it by yourself, and let the feelings come. Then ask your son to identify his “Jungleland” and see where the conversation takes you.

As always, I would love to hear any questions or ideas you may have. Email me at lfraser@ucc.on.ca.

Thank you.
Laurie Fraser, Character Program Director