The Signs of Communication

With communication today, two extremities of communication exist: self-expression and speaking with discretion. Self-expression, or speaking openly on any topic without much censorship or use of etiquette, is common by most of the population. The second, opposite extreme, is speaking with discretion and saying very little in order to preserve one’s reputation. This is more typical of professionals and anyone of class, although it may not necessarily always the case. How are either of these improving the way we communicate? How are both of these skewing the line of civilized communication?

Self-Expression
The first extreme of communication is self-expression which has become an acceptable way to communicate today for most Americans. Unlike other countries, the United States does not have laws against hate speech. What a person says has no societal limitations in most settings. With this increase in self-expression, and decrease in societal parameters for civilized speech, the majority of the population feels they can say whatever they want—and for the most part they do. There is little thought put into what is said. Rather than considering how what is communicated might hurt or offend another, the priority is placed on voicing opinions without discretion, using uncivilized expressions, and being heard.

In the past, social standards influenced improper communication. In Roman and Greek cultures, speaking was seen as an art which had to be mastered before a person was given the right to speak on a topic. It could take years to master becoming an orator. The aspiring speaker had to first learn the art by studying the writings of philosophers, mastering grammar, and learning how to speak. In more modern times, within the United States, social standards set the acceptability of civilized speech and good etiquette. Even a minor comment could eliminate a person from social circles. Differences of opinion could certainly make for a worthy topic of discussion. However, being cordial was expected at a minimum for more vivacious discussions which could lead to arguments. It was possible for people to be accepted, although they might have differing opinions, and still be valued and respected with human dignity.

Within the last 50 years, there has been a shift to self-expression. The ability to say whatever is on a person’s mind is acceptable whether in person or online. There are hardly any limits to what a person may speak about. Open communication is seen as a way to provide transparency and the “honest story” of any person or situation. While this has many benefits, it crosses a line when dignity is stepped upon and boundaries are crossed. Consideration is necessary before speaking with regards to whom a person is talking to, if the topic is appropriate, and the choice of respectful words which are said for a pleasant conversation. Talking about anything can be very damaging. In fact, much of what people talk about has veered away from “ideas” and “intellectual topics”. Instead, what is more common is digressive speech such as gossip or speaking of topics which are inappropriate, very personal or sensitive in nature, or comments which might advertise the negative rather than focus on the positive. There is no preservation of the human dignity of a person. What needs to be said, is what is said, regardless of how it may hurt or offend the other person.

On social networks, a simple post can flare up into a war of replies within seconds. This trolling is often classified inaccurately as a “discussion” and “freedom of speech”. It would be better described as intolerance for a different view which triggers others chiming in to counter the post with an escalating degree of negativity and close-mindedness. These can occur even on simple posts that may not have any intent to attract opinions, but which result in a soapbox of negative, heated, responses. While self-expression allows for openness and problem solving, it can also open the door for adversity. Communication on digressive topics, and intentionally creating unnecessary conflict are examples of unhealthy communication. Speaking about anything without consideration of another person is rude and uncivilized.

The Power of Silence
The other extreme for communication is to choose to say very little or to remain silent. By speaking cautiously a person is more likely to preserve their good reputation. It also provides safety, by finding no partiality to any party or issue. The person remains politically correct by withholding an opinion. In many spiritual teachings, silence is perceived as golden. By remaining silent, a person can reflect wisdom. Remaining silent, a person does not reveal what they know or do not know. Likewise, by not speaking, there is less of a chance of speaking in an unintelligent manner, speaking offensively, or divulging information which should not be revealed. Remaining silent is also a way to absorb heated conflict, inappropriate speech, and to buy in time to respond with a more thoughtful response.

There is a time and a place to speak. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.  While we should speak out rather than remain silent on situations of injustice, on political views or ways that may affect our life, saying less, rather than more can be a way which contributes to civility. Voicing an opinion without consideration, can breed hate more than solve problems. This is where uncivilized speech occurs. In today’s culture, it is more likely that the freedom of speech is taken too far through the self-expression of uncivilized conversation. Self-expression can be the ignition of unnecessary conflict just to express an opinion. When freedom of speech is taken to this extreme, responding with silence can help swing the equilibrium of communication, bringing it back to more peaceful speech and civilized communication. Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is important.

Finding the Balance with Human Dignity and Respect
Some social and professional settings still have standards for communication, although uncivilized speech is more popular. Realizing that there is a place for self-expression while maintaining a standard for civilized communication is the challenge which we face today. Many do not recognize digressive communication. Being desensitized by the current standard, hardly anyone today questions inappropriate speech which is on the tongues of most and found in media and by leaders. If culture continues to accept digressive speech, it is a reflection on our country, acceptability for digression and lack of etiquette, and is an insult to the right to the Freedom of Speech which we have. The First Amendment was created for Americans to speak up for freedom and liberties for all. With an acceptability of hate speech and speaking on digressive topics, society is infected with negativity, hate, unacceptability, intolerance for differences, immaturity, a lack of professionalism, and lack of human dignity. It shows an inability to communicate and interact with others. For a country which prides itself on being a melting pot, this is not congruent. Although not everyone will get along, there needs to be a greater degree of respect for differences whether it is race, belief, lifestyle, ability, economic or any other characteristic. Valuing differences and human life needs a higher tolerance and acceptance. Inequality will always exist, but human dignity needs to be upheld. Since the primary problem of unacceptability stems from inappropriate speech, correcting communication that is off-balance can help set society upright to a culture with a civilized standard.


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Books
Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties under the Law (America’s Freedoms)
by Ken I. Kersch

Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World
by Timothy Garton Ash

Free Speech and Censorship: Examining the Facts (Contemporary Debates)
by Harold L. Pohlman

Choosing Civility
by P.M. Forni

The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude
by P.M. Forni

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It
by Os Guinness

Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration
by Teresa M. Bejan

Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation
by George Washington and Tony Darnel

Movie
Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech
Director: Liz Garbus
Documentary
Rating: NR

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SAY…WHAT!?! About Speech

Image

If you think Freedom of Speech means the freedom to say anything, think again. Defamation and other speech can be civil offenses. On the 4th of July we celebrate our country’s independence and the freedoms we have as Americans. The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech but how are many turning this into the liberty of hate speech? Learn more about defamation, slander, and effective communication. The content below shares valuable information on communication and the different between good speech and traps that we fall in with our tongue. View the infographic and read or listen to the podcast here!

Download the Infographic: How-To Communication with Etiquette SAY…WHAT!?!

What you says matters and speaking well of others is where winners are at. Join Clean Up Dallas with Culture and Kindness for the podcast: How To Phrase It and You Can Quote Me. This podcast talks about how what you say matters especially when Freedom of Speech is taken too far. Learn ways to improve your relationships and how you speak by listening to the podcasts this month and joining this month’s online book discussions. Reach for a higher standard when it comes to communication. Be Cultured. Be Kind.

Listen to the Podcast
How To Phrase It and You Can Quote Me

Read the Script for the Podcast
How-To Phrase It and You Can Quote Me


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Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World
by Timothy Garton Ash

Speak If Thou Dare:
An Absolutist Defence of the Freedom of Speech in the Age of Enforced Silence

by Michael Tapakoudes

Movie
Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge Of Free Speech

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Respect the Box of Chocolates

Mysterious, chocolate covered candies of sweetness all in different shapes and coatings lined up in neat little rows, ready to be enjoyed. Referencing the card or box is the only way to tell what might be delighting your taste buds next. Which one is the ‘best’ is hard to tell, but most of them will probably suit your fancy.  

Each person is unique, just like these chocolates in a box. Many classify people by trying to match them against the persona of ‘the ideal type’. Whomever sets these criteria listens to what our culture finds as the most satisfying, pleasing, and acceptable. These qualities are sure to make 100% of everyone happiest. Usually the recommendations as to what is ‘best’ are in reference to physical attributes or materialistic possessions. If you want the perfect person, you must look for xyz or else, it won’t work. If you do not have these clothes, this house, this demeanor, this belief system, then you are not in-bounds. These hypercritical people spend so much time pointing out what is wrong with others, instead of using their time more productively identifying what does works for them and seeking companionship with those Even better use of time would be for these nitpickers to work on fine-tuning what is lacking in themselves which might be contributing to their unhappiness.

Self-confidence is sometimes achieved in a negative way by nitpicking at others faults in areas which are not a concern to that person. A much better approach would be to focus on the attributes that are best liked in others. By accentuating these, a person learns to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and the gifts that person bring to this world. If a person is not liked, move on. It’s that simple. There are 7.5 billion people who are out there to be met. What good does it do to tear people down who you don’t like? In fact, when it comes to civility it is considered rude to point out what you do not like in others. A person cannot be that attached to what they do not like in someone. It is better to walk away rather than try to get another person to change to meet what you would like to see, especially if it is not important to them. People are not meant to be forced to fit into the same sized cube. Not everyone is going to look the same, believe the same, or want the same things you do. 

To some, respecting differences in others comes naturally. They enjoy people because they are different, and there is enough common ground which exists to maintain a friendship. These people find it refreshing to be around many different kinds of people who add an eclectic aspect to their social interactions. A wider perspective is needed for those who cannot see past differences. Instead of seeing uniqueness, or focusing on the positive attributes, they become hostile and attacking. These people would benefit from wearing special filtered glasses. They need to realize that their cube is not the only cube. Expanding their minds with special glasses might open new frontiers for them.

Respect others with silence and an open mind toward learning about their perspective or beliefs. Find commonality, grow empathy, and accentuate the positive. Try to observe that a view might be different does not qualify the acceptance of a person’s existence. When despised differences are made into the intolerance of the person’s existence, stereotypes and discrimination form. Each person, no matter what their perspective is, should be given dignity and human worth. Some people will be better suited for you than others, and in fact, most probably will work with your persona of ideal, and even within the margins you have around that ideal which define your acceptability range…but for those who aren’t within your framework, destroying them because they are not the same as you, is not OK. There is value in having differing opinions, and civility should still be maintained despite differences.

Try this. Buy a variety box of chocolates. You can even find a small box at the dollar store. When you open it look at the chocolates and I would guess a smile would come to your face. Those, you could say, are all the people you could meet—you just don’t know what they are about or what they are inside. You are only judging by appearance and what you think they are about. Then pick one, delicately take a bite and admire the inside, and see if it is satisfactory. It probably is a taste of the divine. If not, then you can try another one. What would be worse never getting to know anything different than your view and giving it some worth. In essence it is insulting the Maker because of all the reasons you cannot stand this on or that one, and not finding any quality to appreciate. There is beauty and appreciation to be found in everyone. What is so nice is the uniqueness of each individual..


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Books
The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World
by Jamil Zaki

The Gifts of Acceptance: Embracing People And Things as They Are
by Daniel A. Miller

Appreciate People!:
The Path to Understanding, Acceptance, Compassion, Respect and Love

by Miriam Adahan

Chocolate
Box of Chocolates


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Introspect on Respect

Respect. A word that is fought for or attempted to be reclaimed when lost. It crosses a line which each of us has where dishonor begins and loss of human value. Many times it can be overcome brushed aside, but disrespectfulness can add up, crossing even into attacking human dignity. Some people allow external factors or negative thoughts to trump over knowledge of their own human worth with the worse of cases ending in suicide. Media and the arts set the standard for our culture for communication, dress, and interactions with one another. It is important to have our personal boundaries established of what is acceptable for ourselves and what isn’t.

Basic respect appears to be lost with the majority of the population. Why is this? Maybe because we are busy and self-absorbed with our life more than others? Being much busier may not really be as much the case, but rather that our latest electronic device is more interesting than spending quality time with the people around us. Electronic communication provides a newfound security as people become increasingly more timid interacting with others directly, but bolder in what they have to say with indirect interactions online. Intimacy is reached quicker, all while hiding behind the ‘safety’ of an electronic device. A watered-down value of the other person is left as respect is screened out. It is about what “I have to say” and less about how I am making you feel and do I even care because within seconds there is the next post on the timeline to read, the next text message to respond to, and the next phone call to take which is more important than the person in front of you.

Respect is also lost because the majority of modern media and reality TV shows are influencing us with a lesser standard of respect. Themes revolve on what shocks, what is intimate, and what is revealed. We find what is gross, insulting, and negative as funny. Even everyday purchases such as birthday cards are centered on less than desirable subjects with bathroom humor as topics. The language which is used in media, the arts, and material goods which we buy all set the example of how we communicate. If the grossness, the insults, and the negativity is not rejected, this lesser quality is what our culture sets as the acceptable standard of disrespectfulness.

Purchases which might impact the respect of our culture extend to the fashion industry as well. Clothes made of sheer and revealing material are easy to shop for while more respectful or gender specific clothing are harder to find on the rack. Would men respect women differently if they wore appropriate skirts more than jeans or pants? Considering what we wear everyday might make a difference. While dressing for comfort is standard for our culture and even in many work environments, how does this cause our presentation overall to slide. There is a greater respect for others and formality in our speech which results from dressing up and caring a little more about your appearance.

This can also be seen in the arts. Historically people dressed up for cultured events and found meaning in performances. This naturally led to quality discussions as part of the enjoyment of the event. Our entertainment has changed in today’s culture to what satisfies quickly, with little meaning in the message, and media strictly viewed for amusement. It is nothing to dress up for and very little meaning impacts us as a result of the experience. It is simply a time to relax and laugh at disrespectfulness in many cases, desensitized to the rudeness instead of being bothered by it. When an event is found important and you dress up for it, the standard of respect found at the event and culture is usually higher. The effort which we put into anything can also create greater respect. Is it because we have quick fixes as we become a more efficient society and give less respect to things which must be worked for? Is it less attractive to pursue those things which have work involved when quick fixes exist? These are all points to think about at least.

If we all choose to be more respectful in how we speak, no matter what the circumstance, we can begin to change the culture of disrespect. Respect could become an art in itself to master. Have you listened to what you say when you talk to others? If you could play it back, would what you hear be statements of respect and kindness? There is something to be said for respectful phrases which have fallen away. We need to build people up, not tear them down. We need to respect boundaries which are set, not bulldoze over them thinking we can do whatever we please. Despite any differences we may have with others, people will respond better with respectful language and actions and the standard of respect in our culture can change as a result.

By practicing a greater degree of respect and kindness, we can be an influential element for a civilized culture resulting in quality relationships, positive energy, and greater happiness. It means guarding our speech and actions until we can make it habit. Civilized people who practice good etiquette always choose to be polite and respectful, give consideration to other people, and are positive.

Being respectful. That’s what’s in.


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Lovin’ Butter

Oooh…where are your margins when it comes to lovin’ butter, or are you already an expert at spreading love generously?

The desire to be loved is part of human nature. It can be felt in varying degrees by the people we interact with in our lives. To love is what we all have the capability to do, although some may struggle to express it more than others. Some come from damaged loving experiences and can hardly be pleasant, let alone love others, while others are exploding with so much love, that no one can escape their exuberant spirit of acceptance and radiant energy of love. Loving better is something we all can do.

Being kind and considerate toward another may become less of an importance. Over time, a relationship can deteriorate without even realizing it. Suddenly the relationship may have more arguments and less care between the people involved. If a relationship of any kind between two people is worth salvaging, a person will try to identify what is causing the problem and take steps to try to find a compromise. Realizing that there is a communication issue can open the door to finding out what the underlying problem is. There may be a lapse in consideration for the other as the person is taken for granted or used overstepping boundaries. The first step to repairing a relationship is realizing there is a problem and identifying it with a sincere desire to amend the difference. Step back and reevaluate the situation and your own response. What is it that you are finding yourself doing? What does the other person really need from you? Maybe your approach is not the best one and you don’t even realize it. Don’t worry. Things are not toast. We know you are in a jam. Let’s roll up our sleeves and take a closer look.

Here are a few things to evaluate:

Do you find yourself judging the other person?

Do you tell them often what they should do?

Do you do all the talking?

Are you always negative?

Do you negate what they have to say frequently?

Are you invading their privacy or treading into sensitive areas?

How often do you follow-up on their problems they mention to you?

How often do you delve into areas you can offer to help?

Are there ways you can be more thoughtful?

Do you speak well about them to others?

Do you make time for them?

Are you dependable?

Do you treat them without expecting something in return?

Relationships naturally occur and it is not typical that we analyze the person we are spending time with—we just interact and love them naturally. If you can become aware of what it is that makes them feel loved, you can “love them better”.  Men for example do not respond as much to verbally being told “I love you”. They need to know they are appreciated and are valued by what they do. A woman, on the other hand, prefers to be listened to and have time spent with them without distractions. Each person is unique and have their own recipe in what they respond to best.

Communication styles can contribute significantly to relationships. Respectfulness towards another person often is communicated in how we speak to them. What is your tone of voice? What words do you use? How can you adjust these? Affirmations can be beneficial to any relationship. By steering away from negative comments and criticism, and recognizing the blessings others bring with their presence, you can breathe positivity into a relationship which can only move it on a better road. Be thankful and express your gratitude frequently more than complaints. Finally, how sincere are you when you communicate? Loving relationships are based on truth and it is surprising how transparent words are which are not meant, often by the actions which support them.

Love is also expressed with nonverbal communication. It can be as simple as smiling more frequently, being more affectionate, or doing acts of kindness. Acts of generosity toward another person, whether big or small, show care by expressing kindness as an act of love. Perhaps you can find a way to help another person to make their life easier. Are you the type who is always busy or finds interruptions a bother? Try to be more approachable and make time. It only takes seconds for body language to be read, which can communicate receptiveness, openness, and warmth. It also can show offense which is an indication you need to try another approach or react differently. Being able to recognize these indicators and respond to them is a way to show you respect the other person. Facial and body expressions are best read in person and are invaluable at interpreting how a person feels. Use these body expressions and facial indicators to help understand how receptive a person is and to read boundaries they have. Realizing that “STOP” really means “STOP” and “NO” really means “NO” needs to be followed for relationships to be successful. This can be communicated in words or non-verbally. Thoughtfulness is always thinking of the other person first in an unselfish manner. It is loving another as well as you would like to be loved, if not better. Lovin’ butter means livin’ better.

Putting love into action and modifying your communication will help let the other person know they are valued and are special. It will also give them the dignity they deserve and show acceptance. Express love without reserves by going beyond the “margarines” and express it “butter”.


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4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere!:
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Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond
by Jay Sullivan

Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication
by Ronald Adle, Lawrence Rosenfeld, Russell Proctor II


Goals to Inspire Others

Choose to be a light of inspiration for all those who you encounter throughout the day. In how you communicate, what you do, and what you have to say, you have the ability to positively impact someone’s day. How you interact can cause a domino effect to affect others for better or worse. By resolving to raise your personal standard of etiquette, respect, and kindness, you will notice your relationships improve. Noticing an improvement with yourself, you will also see a significant change in how others interact with you. Living this way as a good example, others will also notice and re-evaluate how they are speaking and acting. You can be an example to others in the way you speech and act. Practicing good etiquette will add the dynamic components of respect, value, and human dignity to your relationships. Change the world! Inspire a culture of kindness and respect.


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Goals for Kindness

We often think of kindness as a random act of kindness done for another person or a donating time to a volunteer effort. Kindness comes in many other forms that you can do by yourself everyday. Smile, stand up for someone in defense, give a compliment, smile more, ask someone how you can help them, send a kind note, offer to help someone who is sick or has trouble with mobility, or send up an extra prayer.

Make a commitment to kindness as one of your goals for this year. Plan to set aside a day once a month to volunteer. Help someone by yourself or serve as part of a volunteer team. On a daily basis, make a commitment to try to be kind to one person a day, in a big or small way. In November we shared a video on How-To Make a Kindness Journal. If you haven’t started one, you might consider getting a journal or calendar and begin a journey of kindness this year. Notice all of the ways you make a difference over the course of the next 12 months. Kindness multiples, as one life affects another.


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Books
HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time
by Brad Aronson

Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving
by Angela Santomero and Deepak Chopra

 

 




Goals for Speech

What can you say? What are you saying? Setting goals for good etiquette also applies to using slang, profanity, and not being sensitive. Do you realize how easy it is to use abbreviated ways of speaking and choosing grammar which is not correct? While it may be understandable, it may be sending off signals that you lack education, culture and can’t speak or write correctly. Here are some examples:

  • “I be tired”
  • “I is not talking right”
  • “I ain’t doin’ that”
  • “I am not doin’ that”
  • “I got five cents”
  • “I asked did he do it?”
  • “I don’t got none
  • “and then she says that she is going to the store”
  • “She ugly. Something is wrong with the way that person looks”
  • Frequently apologizing to start a sentenceI am sorry. Can you tell me…”
  • Dropping words out of the sentence: they customers”, “he the man
  • Using the wrong tense of a verb: “He have drunk that soda before.”
  • Calling people by inappropriate monikers, racial monikers, or physical monikers: “not had”, “fatso”, “chink”, “spec”, “retard”
  • Double negative: “I don’t got none”
  • Use of the word “like” and overuse of the word “like”: “Like you know?”
  • “Dis” instead of “this”
  • Speaking about sensitive or taboo topics which might make conversation uncomfortable for the others listening
  • Pointing out what you perceive as mistakes in others
  • Mocking other people in sounds or words
  • Ebonics and ‘talkin’ Texan’ should not be an excuse to use poor grammar
  • Confrontational speech with attitude tone and being resistant to almost anything
  • Not speaking to the level of the other person with use of unequal vocabulary, speed, proper tone of voice, language, or holding multiple conversations within the same conversation if they cannot understand or respond
  • Forgetting to use “please”, “thank you”, and “I am sorry”

Style your character. Use proper speech.


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Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies
by Diana Senechal

How to Say It, Third Edition:
Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation

by Rosalie Maggio

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue:
What You Say (and Don’t Say) Will Improve Your Relationships

by Deborah Smith Pegues

Successful Women Speak Differently:
9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, and Influence

by Valorie Burton


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Cultivation of Empathy

In a world where we seem to be separating from each other with our ‘me-ism’, never in the history of mankind has there been a greater need for empathy and understanding of other people. Technology helps us connect, making it is easier than ever to communicate. Yet, despite this, we seem to be more focused on ourselves and our individual opinions than being genuinely concerned with the lives of other people. We can easily remain detached from each other, severing the connection at any time by turning off the switch to the device we are using or closing an app. On the other hand, technology can give us instant insights as to what another person is doing and how they are feeling within moments shared during their day. What is loss in technology is the invaluable human emotions which can only be seen and felt in person. The human relationship that exists with a face-to-face, real-time interaction, is where we connect on a human level, experiencing the joys, the sorrows, the presence of human souls in their existence, and in the way which humans were meant to connect. While technology is one way to extend empathy and connect, making time in person with people is where empathy is truly cultivated best.

We have our own social circles with family and friends where we find belonging. Belonging is one of the essential parts of human existence. Within these circles there are people who are accepted as part of them, and those who are not accepted. Developing a greater sense of empathy might be a consideration, for those groups or social circles which have an exclusive nature about them. Seeing people outside these circles as ‘outsiders’ and not acceptable, may be conquered with greater empathy, by understanding those who are different from us. It is easy to breed stereotypes and assumptions without truly getting to know others who are different. Finding common ground with ‘outsiders’, extends a hand of acceptance despite these differences. Rather than following assumptions, taking the opportunity to learn more about other beliefs first-hand or through research, is an opportunity to make a new friend rather than cause isolation. What better way to enrich a social circle than to use good etiquette and empathy toward other people and facets of life—and as an added benefit may learn from them as well.

What is interesting is that within some cultures, stereotypes and exclusiveness seem to be the quickest route to elitism. Cultures should find this appalling rather than applauding this. There is a special richness found when people of different backgrounds, each with their own stories, can contribute to circles with their individual qualities. Well-rounded people are those who have a rich portfolio of many kinds of friends and see human-value over differences. Typically those who travel the world are more likely to be accepting, as there is an appreciation for different cultures and beliefs. Those who work directly with people, such as caregivers also have a tendency to extend empathy easier because they see past medical and physical issues and are able to see the person. Young children also are naturally more empathetic in their innocence, blinded to the stereotypes which are formed even at an early age taught by their families and in social circles.

Additionally, media has an influence on cultivating empathy. Media can provide education in a unique way, where a person can learn about a situation first-hand by viewing it on screen or reading a description of it. Stories are a way to educate as they pull heart-strings and provide a chance to understand what it might be to “walk in another person’s shoes”. It may be easier for a person to find empathy with an actor who lives a situation within a movie, versus a stranger who we encounter in real life.

Empathy is a way to extend kindness to another person through understanding. It is with empathy that we find a path to growth. Cultivating empathy means finding opportunities to expanding our minds beyond ourselves to include another.

Article written for Zealousness publication
www.ineducationonline.org/e-magazine


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Cultivation of Empathy in the Classroom

How well can you relate to another person? Empathy is the understanding of another person and their situation. Within the classroom environment, there are a variety of learners each with individual learning abilities who come from different social classes. Students are at a disadvantage when they are seen as not meeting the ‘status quo’ of the class and are not accepted. A certain amount of empathy needs to come from teachers, parents, and classmates toward one another to unify the class and make it a positive learning environment.

There are several different categories for learning styles unique to each student. A student may be a kinesthetic learner, learning best working with their hands, while others might learn faster by listening, visually, or by reading. A teacher wanting her students to be successful, can be empathetic to the needs of the students by finding out which is easiest for them. By assessing the students at the beginning of the school year, and referring a student’s history from the previous year, the teacher can identify these needs. The teacher can then prepare lesson plans for diversified instruction to meet the needs of multiple learning styles. The teacher can consider what works best for each class and plan lesson plans accordingly. Additionally, students might learn best working individually, or they might be more social and enjoy group interaction. They might learn best depending on how the classroom is arranged such as having the desks in a circular setting, or several desks pushed together in groups, rather than in stark rows. Teachers can plan activities working in environments best suited to the class.

Teachers who notice frustrations and provide empathy to struggling students can make a difference in the life of the student. Learning is not just about achieving the highest grades, but learning how to stay motivated, having a good attitude, and working past hurdles. As a source of encouragements, teachers can make an impact on the life of the student on a personal level. Stepping out of the role of instruction-to grade book, teachers can extend a human heart to students who may not see past the next exam. In situations like this, teachers can leave a lasting impression to student, by offering additional assistance, reassurance, and encouragement—showing that he or she truly cares about them as an individual wanting them to be successful, beyond the grade book. Teachers can find the student a tutor, they can spend time explaining the material, or if it is a distraction which is affecting learning, a good teacher can dive in to get involved to find out more about the issue which is bothering the student.

Parents can also practice empathy toward teachers. While teachers need to meet expectations to teach, parents can also keep in mind that teachers have a classroom full of students and may be overwhelmed. This does not mean that parents should lower the bar in their expectation, but it may help with their communication as they speak their concerns to teachers. They can soften their demands by stating that they understand the teacher has large class sizes and even offer to see how they can assist the teacher.

Empathy can be taught by schools within classrooms for empathy between students. Students often face bullying in schools. Whether it is that “their hair looks funny”, “they can’t play ball” or “they are the slowest one in the class”, students need to learn to be more accepting of one another. These are life skills which are useful at any age and will help a student learn to work with people who may not be exactly like them.

By identifying cases where students might not fit in, teachers can proactively plan for ways to create a comfort level and safe environment for everyone in the classroom. Students in classes might need to adapt to classmates who are different from them. Empathy and welcomeness needs to be encouraged to help classes identify with students with physical disabilities, the special education student, an English language learner, a quick learner who is gifted, or maybe a student just transferred from another class, or one who is new to the school. Often times, addressing these students with a warm welcome from the teacher demonstrates acceptance. The teacher can also help answer questions which prevents gossip and isolation based on assumptions. By creating this sense of empathy and understanding, the class can accept the student with greater ease. For the student, the ability to be welcomed as an equal within the class and not stand out as an oddity is expedited, eliminating unnecessary attention drawn to them and subjecting them to a hostile environment.

Empathy is not necessarily acceptance. It is providing an understanding to a situation or finding a common ground in the case of differences. This understanding helps create community rather than create division. It is a positive way to build energy from which education and having healthy life-long skills of human relationships are cultivated.


Shop these books…

Teaching with Compassion
by Peter Kaufman, Janine Schipper

Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice (Hack Learning Series)
by Nathan Maynard and Brad Weinstein


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