7 Critical Components of Empathy

When you look at these seven critical components of empathy it's easy to see why empathy is a skill set that develops over time.

Empathy isn't something we are either born with or not, but a more complex way of being that is shaped by our experiences and relationships as well.

Here are seven components of empathy that we can nurture in everyday life both at home and in the classroom. After all, the magic of connection and learning happens when we are present for the little moments of everyday life.


Take care of your people. 

If we all slowed down just a beat to be there for the people in our lives when they are sharing, the world would be a kinder, gentler, happier place to live. Listen as this caring and interested big sister checks in with her little sister on how she is feeling using the travel toolkit poster from the Time-In ToolKit.


Give the people you live with, work with, and love your full attention (including yourself) and focus on the now. 

This tip falls firmly under the "easier said than done" category, and yet focusing on the present is something we can each work towards --- especially through the use of daily mindfulness practices.

Listen as this young man shares about the "power of the squeeze" to help him get present to his own emotions, and how having something tangible to hold onto helps to calm him when he is feeling a big emotion. 


Ask questions that give people a chance to express their thoughts and feelings. 

Last week I sent out an email where I asked our members, "What does Generation Mindful mean to you?" and this was one dad's reply that came back to me with the kindest note of appreciation for the community and the tools we've created. (I'm not crying, you are.)


Listen to understand people's thoughts, perspectives, and emotions, versus listening to respond. 

In this hilarious video, a mom asks a 3 yo to name her feelings after a rough moment they'd experienced together. But instead of saying "I feel sad" or "I feel mad", the child looks at the time-in feeling faces poster and calls her mama out for how she thinks her mom is feeling. 

Listen in closely for the child in the first clip who shares honestly about what she is feeling... priceless.

And in this video, a Foster mom talks about how her foster kids can at times struggle to express how they are feeling, and the supportive way they use GENM tools as a family to listen and understand one another... even when it is hard to find the words.


Listen to learn and connect, not to determine right or wrong. 

In this video, a GENM mom who had been going through the emotional time of a divorce stays curious. Even in the face of her young child sharing that she felt sad, nervous, and "wanted to hit her" this mom listened with curiosity. And in the end, using her SnuggleBuddies ritual for naming and sharing emotions, instead of acting out her anger, and confusion by hitting, this 4 yo was able to put words to her feelings and to open up about what was going on inside her with her mom. #THIS. 


Mirror emotion, connect through body language, and let them know they are not alone. 

Listen in as this sweet mama uses her calming presence and soothing voice to introduce her son to the four main mood groups in a way that leaves him wanting to know more.


Communicate with kindness and care, and use words that encourage and empower. 

Listen in as this school counselor talks about how she uses GENM tools to help children feel connected and safe in school, expressing their ideas and feelings instead of keeping them bottled up. 

When we, as adults, model things like care, concern, being present, and asking questions instead of making judgments, we nurture them in our kids. 

Please enjoy this "7 Critical Components of Empathy" Printable from Sketchnote artist @Valerie Langloss.

What would you add to or change on this list? 

If you are a member of GENM and have a story, photo, or video to share about how you are nurturing empathy and compassion in your part of the world, please share it with us here

(Shared with permission by @Valarie Langloss)

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Suzanne Tucker is the founder of Generation Mindful, a physical therapist, a parent educator of 27+ years, and a mom of 4 (including twins!). Suzanne has been studying the art and the science of connection-based parenting for decades. Her life's work is to help families around the world find more joy and connection in their relationships.

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