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We ALL need to empathise more

(24 Posts)
jezestbelle Sun 09-Aug-15 06:40:29

I have been motivated to post by a few things I have read on here latterly eg men not calling out harassment plus a fairly awful conversation I just had with a male family member ( strictly ex H family member but not the point).

I guess I start with him . This 20sthg man I have known for 10plus years is outwardly all you would want for someone you love-funny, likeable,creative, looks good,good job etc. Only now as he reached his lowest ebb have I heard anything like the full story of his suffering. Mother died when he was 12 has never got over it despite therapy, feels a failure despite career, cannot bear to look at himself in a mirror as he wrongly thinks he is repulsively ugly, feels unworthy of being loved and has already attempted suicide twice. My heart breaks for him and his sadness. On the surface noone would ever ever begin to see this. Instead we walk around in the bubble of our own ego's and make sweeping statements about others. Men who harass women in the road, eg the lowlife who scared the hell out of my then 18 yo daughter who was walking home from comforting her friend over the loss of a parent, following her home and verbally abusing her so she was scared to leave the house for 2 weeks, are suffering are they not from a lack of empathy above all. I when posting about some genuine heart ache I felt at rejecting a desperately shy male colleague, lacked the empathy to see how arrogant and overblown my OP looked even though I was trying to show empathy for him..I have kind of had a light bulb moment about this and am wondering when it will become compulsory in schools to be taught. If it cannot be taught lets find some way to make it accessible. I am very emotional about what I have seen and heard recently.

Flangeshrub Sun 09-Aug-15 07:25:27

I'm so sorry I've read this 4 times and I've no idea what you're trying to say.

NoArmaniNoPunani Sun 09-Aug-15 07:28:29

Sorry I'm thinking the same as Flange

Elllimam Sun 09-Aug-15 07:36:39

I think I see what you mean. We all need to be a bit more understanding and empathetic. I vaguely remember reading an article which made the point that people tended to excuse their own bad behaviour as a one off; I know I shouldn't have run a red light but it was an emergency, whereas they look at other peoples bad behaviours as habitual. So maybe we should all be either harder on ourselves or easier on others smile

Anniegetyourgun Sun 09-Aug-15 07:42:52

I think what she's saying is: think before you act, consider the effect your words may have on someone because you have no idea what they may be going through. Just because someone looks bright and chirpy on the outside doesn't mean they aren't extremely sensitive. Careless words/deeds can have an impact on others that you never meant. People like the OP may realise too late and try to make amends; people like the men who abused her daughter in the street don't realise it at all and quite possibly wouldn't care if they did.

Whether this can be taught in schools I don't know. Some children seem to show empathy naturally at an early age, most I think have to be taught or have it coaxed out of them. This is best done by families IMO and should be pretty well in place by the time they get to school. I don't know if there's an age beyond which if someone doesn't have it they never will.

Anniegetyourgun Sun 09-Aug-15 07:43:21

And what Ellimam said too.

jezestbelle Sun 09-Aug-15 07:49:31

I mean that we need to put ourselves in others shoes to avoid hurting each. other. I could not do this with the family member mentioned as I did not know what he was going through. Now I do know I feel very sorry for him and my love for him manifests itself in me trying to see his point of view. Maybe if he can see some people trying to do that he will feel better. My badly expressed point was bad things that outwardly seem as though they have nothing in common eg sexual harassment and depression actually have a very much common solution ie empathy. Utopian I know but there would be no rapes or harassment or maybe no crime at all if everyone empathised with everyone else.

Cabrinha Sun 09-Aug-15 07:49:49

It's already taught in primary schools.
Quite patronising to teachers to think that when there is a behaviour issue in class, they don't already talk to children about how it makes the other feel.
Teachers don't just follow a curriculum.
Teachers probably do more than anyone but parents in our society to promote empathy.

jezestbelle Sun 09-Aug-15 07:54:18

I did not know it was already taught in ps. Perhaps we might conclude it needs reinforcing as there is evidence of it wearing off in later life..

ninetynineonehundred Sun 09-Aug-15 07:57:30

There was a scheme in South east London recently that involved very young children being taken into schools (with their mums obviously ) to help the children learn about empathy, e.g. How do you think the baby feels being here etc so it is being recognised more as being important .

I think also we need to learn to be more empathic towards ourselves which would have a similar effect but that's a whole other topic for discussion.

Cabrinha Sun 09-Aug-15 08:00:42

OP, I don't mean that there a some government handbook that says "in Y2 you will spend 2 hours in a PHSE class talking about putting yourself in other people's shoes". (although who knows...)
It may not be "taught" in that sense.

Though certainly my daughter's school has plenty of "Kindness" and "Respect" posters.

I just dislike the kneejerk "it should be taught in schools" line from people, which rather assumes most teachers aren't already doing a great job with managing behaviour at school.

I'm not a teacher btw!

It begins at home.

Ivegottoknow Sun 09-Aug-15 08:02:28

Didn't really get your op either.

But learning to empathise is a feature in many curriculum areas in secondary schools eg English, history, geography, PSHE.

Also many schools use restorative justice to repair relationships or make amends after poor behaviour eg who was affected by your actions? How did they feel? What can you do to make things better?

mousethew Sun 09-Aug-15 08:28:09

I empathise with the OP - my mantra is that "everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about". I don't use it as an excuse for bad behaviour but I do think it helps me look at it in a different light: As a manager with 60 people under me and a role that includes a face-to-face element with 100s, I try to bear this in mind. Sometimes those fights are just people fighting against years of conditioned responses; mostly those personal battles run a lot, lot deeper. I know mine do and it would be arrogant of me to assume I am the only one.

Quietlifenotonyournelly Sun 09-Aug-15 08:31:28

I get what your saying OP. It isn't about empathy being taught in schools, it's people in general isn't it? There will always be people who will lack the ability to show empathy especially online as it gives them anonymity so therefore don't tend to think about the wider implications of the comments they make. I see this on some threads and always wonder how the OP that posted is feeling, how my words will affect their lives etc. I tend to only post if I feel that my advice or comment is going to be helpful or sympathetic to that person, obviously not knowing the OP wouldn't like to think I've made a bad situation worse. Fortunately there are more empathetic posters than not IMO.

Quietlifenotonyournelly Sun 09-Aug-15 08:32:22

Well put mousethew

FanDabbyFloozy Sun 09-Aug-15 08:43:05

I didn't quite understand all the OP's post but get the gist.

I agree completely. Everyone seems out for themselves these days, all wrapped up in their own bubble. Why the school sports day didn't suit their child so therefore needs to change, why they need that extension/garden structure even though all their neighbours are upset, why we make jokes about fat people.. As a society we are becoming too self-centered. Just look at our collective selfie obsession!

PuellaEstCornelia Sun 09-Aug-15 08:45:39

I think empathy is a casuality of a society where the individual is seen as more important than the collective. You can only get all these horrible anti-benefit scrounger and anti-refugee stories because people have turned their empathy off. Or decided only they and their mates deserve empathy

RJnomore Sun 09-Aug-15 08:51:47

I think you mean roots of empathy ninety, it's a Canadian franchise, we are delivering here in Scotland as well. Seems to have decent evaluations regarding impact and understanding others feelings.

dreamingofblueskies Sun 09-Aug-15 09:36:44

If I could suddenly turn into the fairy godmother for the whole world then the gift I would give would be empathy, not world peace.

Empathy is massively underrated IMO, it's the most important thing I can think of.

ninetynineonehundred Sun 09-Aug-15 09:38:54

I couldn't agree more blueskies .

pallasathena Sun 09-Aug-15 10:04:23

Empathy's a higher level emotional skill learned through children watching how parents and extended families interact. When you have a fully functioning family unit where love, respect, trust and honesty are encouraged, empathy naturally flows from that environment.

When you have a family set-up where there is control, abuse, disrespect, bad language, dismissive egocentric responses and rampant judgementalism, empathy is very hard to model or even understand and can be seen by lesser mortals as a type of weakness.

It is important to balance one's natural empathy therefore, with the awareness that there are those in society who would try and use your kindness and understanding nature, for their own ends.

I think this is what happens to many women.

Their natural empathy is used against them by abusive partners and they end up feeling guilty for no other reason than that they can feel the other person's pain.

sleepsoftly Sun 09-Aug-15 10:09:17

We are all the same and different.
All 7 billion of us.

Diagonally Sun 09-Aug-15 11:10:11

I agree it is "taught" in schools and if I was choosing a primary school now I would be very interested in asking questions like "how do you encourage the children to resolve conflict? ", for eg.

I am so grateful that my DC had huge input at school around developing social behaviour / responsibility / empathy because he's an only child so has not had the obvious opportunities at home to do things like learn how to share.

He's an excellent mediator and I see him display quite a mature level of empathy in lots of different situations and it's certainly not all down to me!

jezestbelle Sun 09-Aug-15 12:34:06

pallasthena I really could not have expressed it better myself. Quite literally as the bemused earlier responses say. Certainly what you say about the potential for empathy in women to be manipulated is also true ans something everyone needs to be aware of. I do also think that those who have suffered themselves in some way if they have the gift of empathy by nature, nurture or both, this is a very potentially powerful thing. I will say this to the young man in distress when I speak next to him

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