Check out this activity to teach children (or your work team?) how to notice others’ needs (empathy). Here’s a quick version:
- Start with a small marshmallow and an ice cube
- Put the marshmallow on the child’s tongue and ask them to describe it
- Do the same with the ice cube until they can’t hold it on their tongue anymore from the coldness.
- Quickly put another marshmallow on their tongue – they won’t be able to taste the sugar.
- DEBRIEF: What prevents us from seeing the needs of others?
Here’s a situation where I didn’t notice well:
My brain said “That JERK! How dare him treat me like this. I am going to use all my training tricks to let him know that he is not behaving the way he should.” I completed the exercise, and kept my eye on the evil table.
After a break, I watched for him to come back. As he walked in with his head hung down and face tensed up, my brain suddenly reframed. “Wow, something really bad must have happened to him today before class.” This one thought saved the entire day for both of us. I began to empathize with him, and both of our behaviors changed. I felt the stress and frustration in my body leave.
I learned the following lessons and will work on them:
- Each person gets to choose their behavior. I can influence others but it’s their choice how they behave.
- Be gentle; everyone has a struggle.
- Take a minute to evaluate the ‘Shoulds’ (that you made up) and reframe the situation.
- Negative emotions inside me that I tolerate take away my joy, impact and connection to others.