Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best Empathy Videos of 2013

Welcome to my list of the greatest empathy videos I've seen this year.

For some people the power of a video is in how easy it is to watch, and how easy it is to get a point across. There have been several videos made that try to explain empathy to people, and some others that just are tools for building an empathetic connection with others.

Now, please turn down the lights and turn up your headphone volume...and here we go!

1. Empathy, The Human Connection to Patient Care by Cleveland Clinic

2. Sesame Street, Mark Ruffalo and Elmo talk "Empathy"

3. RSA Animate "The Empathic Civilization" spoken by Jeremy Rifkin

4. RSA Animate "The Power of Outrospection" by Roman Kznaric

5. RSA Shorts "The Power of Empathy" spoken by Dr. Brene' Brown

I'm really hoping that we see some more fantastic empathy-building videos in the next year. Did I leave out your favorite? Please tell me in the comments, or post on our facebook page.

Let's bring on 2014!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Favorite toys and games for building empathy

In the last few months, I've seen some really great games that not only are fun, but can help you and I to strengthen our empathy muscles. Let's do twenty reps of 'check out these games' and then let me know what you think in the comments!


First, here's an empathy 'toy' designed for use in the classroom or at home. It's a complete curriculum - the toy, a classroom planner, and ideas for how to use this with people of all ages. I fully support this program and would like to see it succeed. Please watch the video or click the link to check out the full program.

Empathy Toy

Second, here's a different idea - see how other people see things through a party game. The game is "Telestrations" and it works well with the adult crowd as well as with kids. If you've ever played the game 'telephone' or 'pictionary' then this is a combination of the two. Click the link to go to the Board Game Geek listing, or just watch the video for a family's review.


Do you know of any more games or toys that build empathy?


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Building empathy with my daughter

I've got two kids, ages six and two. As much as I might try to feel what it's like to be in their shoes, it's really, really hard. As in nearly impossible. :)

Remember this article on empathy traps? The trap I fall into headfirst with my kids is "fixing them". It's one thing to try to stay away from 'fixing' my friends, or strangers I meet, because they are all adults. I can see how I shouldn't tell them how to live their lives, because they are grownups who can make their own decisions.

For my daughter though it's so much harder to try not to fix her. She's my daughter, of course I want to try to fix all of her problems. I want to help her, I want to teach her, I want to control her happiness. But when I control her I lose the parenting game.


For example, let's take the other day when I wanted her to put away her toys. She got mad - and she showed her anger in a child's way, with pouting and stomping her foot and folding her arms. "No", she would shout, "No, no, no!" I got angry right back and her and said, "Don't be angry about that! That's not worth getting angry about!" Which is a totally silly and emotional thing to say. I say it because I'm feeling angry too - angry at her for being just like me.

I see and feel every day how much she is how I was at her age. Then I think, "Well, I finally stopped behaving that way, why won't she stop too!"

When I look at times like this in hindsight, I know that I should be listening to her anger or fear with empathy. I also see how hard it is to step out of that emotional moment. 


So here's the issue - right there. I want to be empathetic to my daughter, but I also have my own feelings to deal with, and her feelings too.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

A year of empathy building

This has been an amazing year, thank you all for taking the ride with me! For those who missed them and want to catch up, here are two of my favorite moments from the past year:

Or of course, you can just browse through the archive.

I plan to make the next year even better for you by sharing more stories and pushing myself every day to be more empathetic with everyone.

Thanks for all you've done. You've been a great help.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Cake Decorating hobby - trying to match a frosting color

It's messy, it's sloppy, but making frosting is just all-out fun.

I was challenged the other day to create an African safari theme. My host would be adding toy animals and zebra-striped wrappers, and she wanted a chocolate cupcake with a grassland frosting. This sounded simple; but nothing is ever really easy when it comes to cakes!


First I made up a batch of basic buttercream, and added the raspberry flavoring. Only I had forgotten that raspberry flavoring will tint the entire bowlful slightly pink.

Not Pink! I didn't want PINK!!!* I was going for that dried hay and grassland color (kind of like this) which is definitely NOT pink.

I wanted to fix it but I was worried. I thought about adding color to the pink but I didn't want to ruin the whole batch with a mistake. So I took a cup or so of the frosting out of the main bowl to experiment with. The lady at the cupcake shop had recommended a light brown food dye, so I added a small amount of brown. Only what I didn't realize was that it was a red based brown. The result? This pumpkin-colored mess:

Not too appetizing, right? So I tried again, this time going back to the base pink and adding just yellow - ignoring the brown completely. That came out much better, it wasn't hay but it wasn't orange either. Here's the way it looked in the mixer:

And here's how it looked on the final dessert:

Look out, it's a rhino on his way to his watering hole! :)

I'm proud of myself for doing this; I was able to give the recipient what she wanted; a tasty cupcake that fit her party theme. I created something, and it feels good.

Have you created lately? What gets your pride going?


*This line is actually is a reference to a book called "Pinkalicious" by Victoria Kann. The story is all about a little girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink (her hair, her skin, everything). Her parents aren't particularly thrilled about this. If you are interested, you can check out the book yourself here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The importance of a friendly face

I honestly think I haven't spent enough time smiling at people. Maybe it's my history of living in New York City, but I definitely haven't smiled enough. I was taught that smiling at strangers will get you into trouble. I've since learned that smiling at strangers can fill your day with awesome moments.


A few days ago I walked into my local bagel shop to pick up breakfast for the family. It was cold, really cold, biting cold. Cold enough to wear gloves and layers and hats and other things that I've kept buried in my closet for months.

The bagel place (I'm not going to name it, because honestly it's just not that great of a place*) has a double-door to keep the cold out and the warm in. As I was leaving, warm bag of bagel sandwiches in my hand, a family of six was coming in. I thought, "I'll hold the door for them". The mom and the teenage daughter were first, herding two smaller kids with them. I smiled at them but they were arguing about something - they were very engrossed in their conversation.

I was about to let the door go when I saw the dad, bringing up the rear. I still had my smile on and kept it for him, holding the inner door. He was holding the outer door. He looked at me - and smiled back.

He said, "Okay, let's do this! In one, two, three!"

I laughed and we both let go of our doors at the same time, each grabbing the other's door.

He laughed too.


*In my opinion the best bagels are from Ess A Bagel in New York City. I know that there are advantages to living in New York, and the bagels are definitely one of them.