Fun Friday: Teaching Empathy

This is a serious topic, brought up by reggiedog in yesterday’s comment thread, but maybe we can have some fun with it today.

I agree with reggiedog that teaching empathy to children is necessary if you want to produce happy and healthy adults. We are fortunate that our kids’ school was damn good at that and we certainly never missed an opportunity to point out how their actions made others feel.

The Gotham Gal spent much of her high school years coaching kids sports. She had a whistle around her neck and pretty much every form of athletic equipment in the back of her car. And we encouraged our kids to do the same. Each of them coached middle school basketball when they were in high school. Looking back on that, I think coaching/teaching at a relatively young age is a great way to teach empathy. You learn how to deal with challenging situations and the emotions that come with them up close and personally.

Taking this to another level, teaching in general is a great way to learn to help others and feel the joy that comes from that. If you can put your kids in situations where they are helping others, you are likely to teach them empathy for others, which as reggiedog points out is a badly needed skill in this day and age.

I’m curious to hear from others in the comments how they have approached this challenge as a parent.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Given the back to school timing, Sara Goldstein had this really good article, 30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”Several of these questions relate to empathy. Among them:Did anyone do anything super nice for you?What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?Who made you smile today?What is one thing you did today that was helpful?When did you feel most proud of yourself today?What rule was the hardest to follow today?Which person in your class is your exact opposite?

    1. reggiedog

      Wonderful! I’m definitely adopting this routine. Thanks!

    2. BillMcNeely

      I read that post and began using it. Leads to some interesting conversation with my 10 yr old son Colgan.

    3. lisa hickey

      Not only is this a great list, which I will adopt immediately, but it now I’m thinking of my own list that answers the question “Why It’s Important for Entrepreneurs to Have Empathy.” Look at the questions that you might ask of someone starting a company and how they relate to empathy:-Will the user experience be seamless and pain-free?-How will you build a company where people just can’t wait to work there?-How will you look at data of user behavior to make things better? Why is this important?-Get inside your competitor’s heads for a minute, and talk about why they are doing what they are doing.-What does your customer base want next? -How will you build a world-class customer service organization. Why do you think customer service is important? -How will you support and encourage the people who evangelize your product/service?Answering those questions requires empathy.

      1. William Mougayar

        Great analogy. I like it.

    4. JamesHRH

      Saw this too – terrific piece.Have already used ‘which teacher would survive zombie apocalypse?’

  2. kirklove

    Great post. Works both ways. Shows kids empathy and they’ll learn empathy.

    1. William Mougayar

      Good point that showing acts of empathy has a big impact vs. telling them. Kids like to copy what their parents do.

      1. kirklove

        They do indeed.

  3. Tim Huntley

    Fred, I am working on this issue in a startup that provides online games to teach social and emotional learning to children. As you indicate, these are critical skills for developing into a “happy and healthy adult,” and they are huge predictors of success in life.It turns out that kids who scored well in social skill in kindergarten were 2x more likely to have a full time job 20 years later and kids who did poorly were 2.5x more likely to have been arrested (…. The good news is that if we can work on these skills early, we can have a big impact.

  4. LIAD

    My wife is saintly with things like this.We spent a few weeks over the summer in Israel. Beaches, ice-cream, treats – you know the kind of vacation. Focused solely on giving the kids a great time.One day was earmarked specifically for ‘good deeds’.My wife contacted a food kitchen in downtown Jerusalem and asked if we could come down and help out. Prepare the food, serve it and clean away after. There’s a lot of poverty in Jerusalem and people of all ages and religions rely on these kitchens.I was nervous for the kids. Old, dishevelled people, speaking in languages they wouldn’t understand. I thought they’d be traumatised and the whole endeavour would backfire.I couldn’t have been more wrong. They took to it like ducks to water. Chopping the vegetables, preparing the meals and then serving and interacting with the various characters who came by to eat. I was really proud of them. They handled it way better than I did. It was an emotive character building experience for them, and believe it or not one of the highlights of their holidayIt was another lesson for them (and me) about how fortunate we are and how it’s important to make giving a fundamental part of your lifeMy youngest, Sophia, dressed in an oversized apron, who decided on her own volition to go round and offer people water.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Amazing. And precious.

    2. panterosa,

      Liad, what a nice story. My mother, daughter and I served xmas dinner at a church in NYC when my daughter was 8, and while I had your same worries, we experienced the same pleasant surprise of her taking to it easily. It was 2009, and times were hard as evidenced by who was at the meal, many did not expect to find themselves there.We are paring down to a third of our stuff this end of summer, and supporting the Bowery Mission. My daughter is selecting things she was given which she doesn’t need to give to kids in the shelter there, knowing those pencils, notebooks, clothes and blankets will make it easier for those kids.Understanding others have less, and she can act to share with them is something she has been good at all along. The tsunami when she was 3 inspired her to give some stuffed animals for us to send away, of her own accord, from seeing a toddler her age with nothing on the front page of a newspaper. I was moved to tears.For Katrina shortly after, I found a preschool for our preschool to sponsor, and we sent clothes toys and books to 75 kids and their families. I’m proud of my girl’s instinctive generosity and feel that it’s up to me to find opportunities where she can connect her giving to helping others because she can exercise her empathy muscles.I’m glad her school supports that in many ways.How we can help refugees directly right now is beyond me, but those images are powerful and I feel the next wave of our charity as a community, or group of communities around the world.

    3. PhilipSugar

      As usual you took my point and expressed it ten times better. :-)I was going to say that you have to expose your kids to those less fortunate. I’m assuming most people on this board are relatively/very well off. If you kids only see those people they can not have much empathy.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I think that personally my biggest tests and lessons in empathy have come in interacting with the “haves” rather than with the “have nots.”

        1. PhilipSugar

          Really empathy?? Or needing to put up with people’s shit?? This is coming from a self aware person that knows I must be the world’s biggest pain in the ass to deal with, because I am used to just getting catered to. My wife reminds me of this every day…..just like Fred’s she keeps me in my place.

        2. LE

          Perhaps the have nots are nicer and more empathetic because there are things that they need that the haves have. And the haves don’t need anyone as much so they don’t have the same motivation to be accommodating. Maybe.

    4. Drew Meyers

      What a fantastic story. It’s my hope more trips in the future include some experience exactly like what your kids went though. The earlier in life someone experiences that, the better.Empathy is what this world needs most right now, imho — and that’s at the core of Horizon, the startup I’ve been working on. From my perspective, the best way to increase empathy is to actually spend time getting to know people with completely different values/experiences/beliefs/religion/etc. Either you need to go to them (like you did), or they need to come to you (hosting via networks such as couchsurfing).

    5. ShanaC

      Murm..Murm.I’ll email you on this one. I’m not being that bitter in public

    6. Donna Brewington White

      I think that this is really wonderful! Wish I’d thought of it.Even though we are surrounded by affluence, we still run into quite a number of homeless people and people on corners with signs and buckets. My kids have no problem showing empathy with those in need.The hardest lessons in empathy have come in interacting with kids in their private schools who seemingly have all the benefits in life and yet can behave so obnoxiously without even realizing it. Talking through how to respond to those kids with empathy is where the real character lessons have developed.

  5. Russell

    Teaching can be a great way of learning empathy. I had a math teacher in high school with a PhD from MIT. He talked into the blackboard for the whole lesson – a waste of a semester, and sadly killed the joy of math for me for many years, which up until that point I really enjoyed!

  6. andyswan

    My wife, with her masters in psychology, told me just the other day that I am VERY wrong when I tell people I have no empathy.She pointed out that no one gets more excited for the opportunities and successes of others than me…. that I have an uncanny ability to put myself into someone else’s shoes and use that information to make decisions that will benefit myself as well as them (motivation, sales, leadership, etc).This goes to your point about coaching—which has been a big part of my life.What I lack is “sympathy”… which is a very different thing. Something I find pretty useless. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me, I want them useful… so when I’m “empathetic” toward someone else it is without sympathy and immediately focused on solutions. This sometimes annoys my wife…who for some reason tells me problems she doesn’t want solutions to… lolThe point is, I think empathy is very important. It’s a technique. It allows you to understand things better, be more successful, and help others do the same.It should not be confused with sympathy (or its evil manifestation, “altruism”)… which is purely emotion. You’ll notice that generally speaking, those who are most “sympathetic” and preach “altruism” are often the ones who are most envious of others, and most likely to support the destruction/diminishment of the success or ambition of others– generally at the alter of “equality”I feel ya on the coaching bit.

    1. William Mougayar

      Good distinction. Sympathy is feeling FOR someone. Empathy is feeling WITH.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        You need empathy for compassion – compassion having a foundation of full understanding; sympathy is more “I get at least part of it.”Most people have guards up, biases, due to fears they haven’t processed – which then dictates the logical pathways they’ve developed.

    2. Chimpwithcans

      I think this has to do with imagination – as tells me – You feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t.

      1. JamesHRH

        Emotional imagination is not something that everyone has, which is the point Andy is making.If ideas are your main connection to the world, this is typically a shortcoming.

    3. JamesHRH

      Empathy is not just a technique. It is a foundational aspect of the species.

      1. andyswan

        It can be both. Another foundational aspect of the species is the manufacture and use of tools.

        1. JamesHRH

          Being sticky here, but it IS an aspect of the species and CAN BE a technique.Depends on how you roll.I am not against techniques BTW. Someone I really respect likes to say ” the word manipulation gets a bad rap….I am constantly manipulating people into doing things they need to do or to help them attain their stated goal.”Definition of a great coach, really.

      2. Twain Twain

        It was the foundational aspect of our species until Descartes, Julien Offray de La Mettrie and their ilk routed us down the parallel Universe where we model ourselves and our systems as being about pure rational self-interest and optimization — devoid of emotions; us as mere logic boxes and machines.We’re now going to have to re-think those ideas because, otherwise, the next human generation will continue to be socialized with empathy but the machines won’t be. Ergo, no remorse or regret if they kill us or destroy our global economy (which they’re already controlling through blackbox Neural Net optimization algorithms).The irony being that before Descartes’ mischiefs and fallacies, Da Vinci had shown us that our logic and emotions (empathy) are necessary to the whole picture and intelligence of us.@wmoug:disqus

    4. Richard

      Give your grandparents credit for the empathy. Empathy is passed from generation to generation via a something called epigenetics. This has been validated in mice models.I’m not convinced it can be taught like one teaches morals et al.As I mentioned yesterday, the value of empathy however has its limits.

      1. andyswan

        Well there goes the “unique to the species” idea huh_____________________________

        1. Richard

          You know the expression that you are full of it? Well what you are full of is bacterium. We are unique but so is about every living organism.What we appear to do better than any species is innovate our surroundings

      2. ShanaC

        Really, how?

    5. Sandy

      You and your wife hit the nail on the head.I agree with your wife that you have tremendous empathy. You genuinely care about people, or you wouldn’t be so honest and abrasive at times. Contrary to popular opinion, Steve Jobs was actually one of the most empathetic people in history.I also agree with you, that you lack sympathy. You could tell a few white lies once in a while, handhold a little, and support people emotionally.I’ll add one more term – apathy. Empathy and sympathy are caring in opposite ways. The bad trait is actually apathy, which is not having the courage to care at all.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        A lot of people have apathy, especially people who claim to care about people. They don’t say they care about everyone – their scapegoat is that people should find their own way thereby eliminating their own feeling of responsibility for them — creating apathy.As you pointed out, you need courage to care about others – more so to care about everyone because then you have to process the emotions and feel what others are going through whenever there is unnecessary suffering that comes into their awareness.

        1. Sandy

          You got it.Telling people to find their own way means you don’t want to give them any headstart with good advice. You also don’t want to warn them of any common mistakes, lest they avoid the suffering you endured, and thus advance faster than you.

      2. LE

        You genuinely care about people, or you wouldn’t be so honest and abrasive at times.I am not getting a strong connection between caring about people and being honest and abrasive.While people could be honest and maybe abrasive because they care about people, they are also that way perhaps simply because they get a good feeling from expressing what they feel and they rationalize it by saying that they care about someone. Maybe even because they get a rise and wish to feel superior to someone else.

        1. Sandy

          Sympathy is what you mean, not empathy.Sympathy is lying and fake kindness. Sympathy stems from feeling superior to someone, similar to schadenfreude. You support the problem, not the person. Sympathy is a crowd pleaser, because everyone loves affirmation and support for their problems.Empathy is honest and abrasive. You support the person, not the problem. No one likes hearing how you could fix your problems and become a better person. Your mom does stuff like this, because she wants you to be superior to her.Sympathy means you can see someone’s suffering, so you support their negative thoughts. Empathy means you can feel someone’s suffering, so you change their negative thoughts. Apathy means you can see and feel your own suffering, but no one else’s.

          1. andyswan

            Ya I think I’d be a lot more popular if I could muster the kind of indifference it takes to tell people “it’s not your fault” and focus on making them feel better instead of be better

          2. JamesHRH

            You can summon up a lot of indifference Andy, its just indifference to the feelings of others.Ask @JLM:disqus if he is compelled to ‘ tell people how it really is.’ ? I bet his answer is, ‘ to what end? ‘.If no good comes of it, its just self indulgent.

          3. andyswan


          4. Sandy

            I’ll say this though. If you’re going to tell someone how to be “better”, then you must say what is better for them in their life, rather than what is better for you in your life. What is good for the goose will kill the gander.That’s why I am strongly for diversity in race, gender, and sexual orientation, but I am strongly against diversity in inborn communication and personality. I’ve learned that it is of paramount importance that you are able to clearly see how the other person sees it. Not how you see it.In reality, there is no good or bad, no right or wrong, no better or worse. There are only different frames of reference, which stem from different communication styles and personality. How you see things depends on your own frame of reference, so what’s “better” in your frame of reference can actually be “worse” for someone else.

          5. andyswan

            That’s fine to each his own.  If your interests don’t align with mine, I simply don’t care…unless of course they’re in opposition lol

          6. PhilipSugar

            Agree except for your third paragraph which I dis-agree completely with. There is right and wrong, there is wanting to improve yourself, or not, there is working hard or slacking, there is hating on co-workers or not, I could go on and on.

          7. Sandy

            Here’s what I mean. What is right in politics is wrong in startups. What is good for doctors is bad for entrepreneurs. What is good for bankers is bad for creatives.Working hard is good when you charge by the hour. But as an investor, you must have the discipline to slack, sit on your hands, and do nothing.A CEO must always critique each employee objectively and accurately. But if everyone’s locked into an academic legacy team and you’re stuck with your mediocre co-workers for life, then critiquing is a never.Improving yourself as a person is bad when you must have mass political appeal. You’re not “improved” in a good way. You’re “too big for your britches” and think you’re better than everyone in a bad way.There is only right and wrong within your frame of reference. I learned that the hard way.

      3. JLM

        .In the love v hate sweepstakes — hate is not the “opposite” of love.The opposite of love is indifference. A total lack of feeling.Your comment about apathy is on the money.Well played!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      4. LE

        Steve Jobs was actually one of the most empathetic people in history.Impossible to lead a large enterprise like Apple and be empathetic by the traditional definition of empathy. Requires making to many hard decisions that will end up having a wide impact.Jobs (and most CEO’s) wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) hesitate for one second to close a division, lay people off, cut product lines (where suppliers are impacted) close retail channels (where people lose their jobs) and so on. It’s cold hard business. People are impacted. A business guy can rationalize that “this is necessary to protect the company” and maybe there are cases where that is true but the truth is that is not typically the case. All you have to do is follow the money as to why an exec acts a particular way.Most CEO’s would have empathy perhaps for someone who directly reports to them simply because they have built a close relationship and find it harder to dodge hurt feelings.Honestly, do you really think Brian Roberts of Comcast (or Bill Gates) really cares about all of the aggravation that customers might have with their products or their service? We are talking often about world and life changing aggravation here that truly almost rises to the level of impacting mental health.

        1. JLM

          .The most difficult thing I have ever done in my life is to notify a mother that her son was killed in action. I was 26 years old and I thought I was a hard case. Maybe, I was even right about that. I had paid full tuition.I can remember every second of that day. I will not pick that particular scab today.It was in South Philadelphia in a neighborhood of faux brick shingle rowhouses. And I walked in and totally fucked up some people’s lives in about ten seconds.I left something of myself in that neighborhood and will never have the courage to go reclaim it.Since that day, everything I have ever done as a CEO has been pretty damn easy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Sandy

          Again, you mean sympathy, not empathy.Laying people off is fair, when workers are incompetent, or products aren’t selling. If you want to be incompetent or make crappy products, go into government or academia. The free market will tell you the truth about who you are, so that won’t fly.That’s not cold at all in my mind. On the contrary, that’s empathetic, warmhearted, and appreciative to your competent workers who put head to grindstone, suffer yet never complain, and pull all the weight.Your competent workers dare to go in the arena and actually try. It’s totally lacking in empathy to burden such workers with incompetent colleagues. Only people who have never been in the arena themselves would have sympathy for incompetence. It’s far harder in the arena than it looks. Courage does not mean lack of fear.

          1. JLM

            .Courage is the ability to continue to act in the face of overwhelming fear.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Girish Mehta

            “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”- Atticus Finch (Harper Lee)

          3. JLM

            .Here’s the thing — regardless of how seemingly certain the outcome appears to be, there is a reason why we play out the games. It is because there is no such thing as “certainty.”The experts and the pundits can never really gauge heart.I started a real estate development business on the day the WSJ had an article that announced that Austin Texas was THE worst real estate market in the entire United States.My wife, that evening at dinner, showed me the article and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”To which I replied, “It takes no courage to sell high but it takes a lot of balls to buy low. It can’t get any lower than this.”Every once in a while she will repeat that story. My children always seem to be looking for the lobotomy scars.It all turned out good — Hell, it turned out spectacular — and we hit a very solid lick.But, sometimes, late at night when it is very quiet and I can hear my own heart beat, I wonder if I still have that kind of guts and courage to risk it all.I just wonder.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. PhilipSugar

            That is why no matter what anybody politically correct says the go big or go home startups are usually started by younger founders. This coming from an old guy.Not saying startups. The old people start ones they know will work. A little less risk, a little less reward, but very profitable none the less.

          5. JLM

            .Little quibble. I was talking about “risking it all” not a typical startup. I self funded that deal.The truth of the matter is that the current crop of startups are not even remotely dangerous. There is so damn much money out there and if you have started 7 businesses and you will do the planning work, it is a piece of cake.Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, dollar weighted org charts, elevator/taxicab/board room pitches, pitch deck, company presentation.It is easy as pie.I could teach a reasonably smart Shih Tzu how to do it.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. PhilipSugar

            I have to concede your point. You are right, about the funding situation.You could probably do something along the lines of the producers:… just in jest.No disrespect there meant at all but I think you are right.

          7. Twain Twain

            Younger being late teens, early 20s?Mark Pincus was 41 when he started Zynga.Reid Hoffman was 36 when he founded Linkedin.Marc Benioff started Salesforce at 35.Robert Noyce started Intel at 41. His co-founder was 39-year-old Gordon Moore.Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi were 52 and 50, respectively, when they founded Qualcomm.* http://www.businessinsider….

          8. PhilipSugar

            All were not go big or go home startups. I have started companies at 35, 45, and 48 all successful.But as I conceded I was wrong.

          9. Girish Mehta

            Buying at Lows is very easy two times – In theory and In Hindsight. Its easier to say ‘Be greedy when others are fearful’ than to actually do it. Its February 2009 and the S&P is at 750. How many people bought ?The future is always uncertain. Hilarious when financial commentators say that markets have turned volatile because of high uncertainty about (pick your variable). As opposed to all the other times when the future was certain ! Fifteen years back I read a bunch of books about “Peak Oil”. A few years back Goldman forecast oil would hit $200 a barrel. Today Goldman has forecast that Oil will drop to $20 a barrel.Risk means more things can happen than will happen.This applies to the past as well. A good way is to think about the past probabilistically after it has happened….in a way, the past is also uncertain :-). A reality check whenever I start to think I know something about the future.

          10. JLM

            .Keep your eye on oil. It is going to be a very interesting ride when an additional 1MM barrels a day comes from Iran — not the addition of their existing flows which are already in the mix but the additional flows that will come when they have enough money to fix the leaks and drill.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          11. Girish Mehta

            I read sometime back that although exports had dropped in past years, Iran was still producing 2.5 million barrels a day and parking the excess in tankers. So while the additional output will kick in next year, there is almost 50 million barrels in tankers ready to add to the world’s supply…?

          12. JLM

            .Yes, that is exactly what I think it correct. US inventories were very high but really drained in August.Too much production, too much inventory, declining consumption, China cooling.The price is going down, down, down.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          13. JamesHRH

            You’d be a moron to do so.

          14. Sandy

            It’s actually the least risky to bank on your greatest strengths. If courage, mental strength, and emotional discipline are your greatest strengths, then it’s the least risky to lean heavy into them as an investor.I also think it’s the least risky to bank the majority on only a few things that you actually have conviction for. Even if you don’t catch the exact low, you know deep down that all you have to do is wait.But you’re right that no risk assessment beats cash 🙂

          15. Twain Twain

            THIS: The experts and the pundits can never really gauge heart.It never gets explicitly measured in any benchmarks — only things like: how many new users, where are they clicking, how much are they spending?I was thinking about your words re. “sitting forward in the saddle” and “picking up the bat to swing” this morning because I read this from Steve Wozniak: “He (Steve Jobs) established himself by force to be the leader, that was his goal.”Upstream there are comments about how “Steve Jobs was actually one of the most empathetic people in history.”Each one of us has a different definition of what empathy and what leadership is.I’d say both start with the heart.

          16. JLM

            .It is not the dog in the fight; it is the fight in the dog.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        3. Twain Twain

          Steve Wozniak on Steve Jobs recently: “That was when his personality changed from being the nice prank-playing joking person that we’d go to concerts with, to all of a sudden everything had to be super-serious and super-business and you couldn’t fall behind anyone else.”I’ve been in two situations in the last year where I met two guys I thought, “Hmmn…you have a bit of Wozniak potential and with someone like me, a $billion hardware company could be built” but they had completely limited knowhow of business and the hard work it takes to make a product successful and make it look easy.They were under the impression they were doing all the hard work when I had actually done 90% of the work.If Steve Jobs was empathetic, he’d have arranged focus groups to ask people for their opinions on everything.As it was, he famously said: “The customer never knows what they want until we show them.”

          1. LE

            but they had completely limited know how of business and the hard work it takes to make a product successful and make it look easy.But why does that matter? If you care about getting to the promised land who cares what is reality and what someone thinks? (Not doubting it can help at a future point when you are trying to raise funds or get respect for another business of course..)When I had a business I never cared who took credit or who had an idea. All I cared about was that it put money in my pocket. I was very willing to give others credit even if they don’t deserve credit if it floats the boat and ends helping me.When I worked for a very very short time at a small corporation I was hit with the “who gets the credit for the idea shit”. I do understand that’s a part of the beast. But the smart thing (if it’s your business) is really to manipulate people to do your bidding and to make them feel smart. And if it ends up making you money who cares if someone else gets the credit?Would you rather be able to say “I was the person who made Steve Jobs successful look at me I am great” or would you rather have the financial rewards? The “smoke” feels great and it’s a party in your brain but personally the money has a greater bit of utility at least the way that I feel.I guess that is why with certain company many people want to be behind the scenes and some like to be the public front that the idiot business writers and talking heads on TV think actually are responsible for 99% of the companies success.You see this with USV. Everyone thinks it’s Fred but Fred is humble enough to give others credit and talk them up and they are ok with Fred being the public face they aren’t jealous of the bands “good looking lead singer”.In all jest (but partly serious) I need to get you on the couch to move you beyond this type of thinking!

          2. Twain Twain

            It’s well-known that women tend not to be given credit we deserve, especially in tech.Article says: “Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture could cost the technology industry the thing it values most: innovation.””The industry is still male dominated and it can be so aggressive and intimidating and almost feel like this club where you have to have a certain IQ or you’re not invited,” says Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox, which makes engineering toys and games for young girls.”Studies show that women don’t give themselves enough credit — they undervalue their ability and intellect while men overstate them. You can see why that culture can be off-putting for women.”*

          3. LE

            All of what you are saying in your various replies is true. However it is way easier to change the way you think of the biases and attempt to not let them detract you than it ever will be to change the system. That effort will detract from your mission of getting head for yourself.Look as a kid I was never good at sports. As a result I never got picked at all or picked last. I didn’t care for sports. That actually was a lucky break because it forced me to spend time on things that I was good at. If I had spent time and had stress over something that I couldn’t change (my ability to play sports) that would have been a big waste.And speaking of Debbie Sterling (who I never had heard about until today) look at what she has done (I scanned the video wish I had time to watch all of it):…Debbie is very attractive. And I am noting that she uses a nice picture of herself smack on her about page. Why does she do that exactly? Why does that matter in terms of the products that she is creating? It doesn’t. It is simply an example of using her looks to her advantage. Or her age or perhaps so that she can relate to her target audience which is mothers I am guessing. Ever see the management team at GE in the annual report? They do there version of this. People do infer things from looks, sex, religion, age, gender it’s baked into human nature.If she looked like Wallace Shawn would it be smart to do the same? It wouldn’t. Not for her target market.

          4. Twain Twain

            Thanks, really appreciate and hear what you’re saying.I’ve learnt to harness the differences between male and female thinking in a useful way in the system I’ve built.The key is to focus on the positives.

          5. Twain Twain

            Generally, it’s less productive and conducive to work with engineers who think they are “God’s gift” but don’t know enough business to appreciate that the TEAM NEEDS TO SHIP PRODUCT TO SERVE PAYING CUSTOMERS and not simply navel-gaze about how awesome their code is.That’s the difference between the Jobs, Zuckerbergs, Pages+Brins and all those engineers who think their code and they are oh-so much smarter than those guys.

          6. Twain Twain

            The ironic thing is that as a kid I was Captain of sports, right? That instilled in me all the right principles about “There is no “i” in team” and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as the team wins.”Normally, those are the principles and best practice I work with.However, in those two particular examples, it struck me that it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t giving them due credit, it was that they didn’t show the same consideration.Mutual respect and consideration matter.

        4. pixiedust8

          Having known someone who worked at Apple and having heard the stories about the work environment there, I would disagree with your assessment.

      5. Twain Twain

        Steve Wozniak about Steve Jobs, discussing the Sorkin movie on him: “It deals with what we are all very familiar with – a lot of his negativism. This comes about less with him doing negative things to other people, and more him just sort of standing [there] and not caring as much about others as himself, and not being able to have feelings very much […]But it also deals with him going through various product introductions and how he would have to be very tightly in control. Part of the “reality distortion field” is in there, and his failing to listen to others on occasion and only seeing everything he did as right.”*…@domainregistry:disqus

        1. Sandy

          Love your posts, btw.Sounds like same as usual on Jobs. Great strengths will typically be accompanied by bad weaknesses.

    6. Matt A. Myers

      Hilarious last paragraph where your ego and fear of survival took over..

      1. andyswan

        My ego is never intentionally suppressed. I hope it comes through in everything I do. As for fear of survival…I don’t understand what that means.

        1. Jim Ritchie

          It seems we have similar personalities and views on empathy v. sympathy, which can frustrate my wife at times as well. She is a very smart lady with BS in Comp Sci and MBA from Wharton, but possesses way more sympathy than I guess I do. My endearing nickname for her is Sappy Sappington. She will cry when reading posts on Facebook…For those of use that don’t live our lives from a place of fear, it is sometimes very hard to relate to those that do. Misconstrued values and intents are the outcomes.

    7. LE

      This sometimes annoys my wife…who for some reason tells me problems she doesn’t want solutions to… lolIt’s funny that often people who do that type of thing will then give the same info to a complete stranger, friend or co-worker and then be happy to hear any advice. Or at least patiently listen. I think maybe it’s a scarcity response. Your wife is used to you wanting to fix problems. But it’s obvious that she just wants someone to vent to. I definitely understand your pain.

    8. Donna Brewington White

      I really empathize with this comment.

  7. pointsnfigures

    Interesting you bring up coaching. I am the son of a coach/teacher. I know a lot of the players my father coached and believe me they never thought he was very empathetic during practice, but it turns out he was. Many of the kids I hung with were sons of coaches so there always seemed to be a coach around.For my kids it was similar to your kids-they worked with younger people. My oldest daughter tutored in this program… Our youngest was a swimmer and taught private swimming lessons.I never coached myself, but always have that attitude as part of my personality. It’s really fun to teach someone to do something, and then see them actually execute under a little pressure. Reminds me of a quote from Patton I love. If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.

  8. Tom Labus

    It’s how you ;live every day that kids pick up and learn from.They can see BS a mile away.

    1. Mike Zamansky

      Exactly. Same thing as a teacher, coach, or mentor. You can’t just talk the talk, gotta walk the walk as well. You can’t just do or say because it’s what a parent should do or say – you’ve got to live it.I’m amazed when I hear or notice, years later about the types of things kids picked up from teachers and coaches.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yes. So much yes.

  9. reggiedog

    Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, ended his recent Re/code Decode interview by telling Kara Swisher that if he could do one thing for society going forward that he’d “take a page from Code for America and do a nationwide program on empathy.”

  10. Chris O'Donnell

    Both of my my kids are in college now, and both are probably more empathetic than either of their parents. I really have no idea how we did it. They both have spent a fair amount of time teaching younger kids,so maybe that is it. I can’t really point to anything that we did as parents though that I think was the crucial factor.

  11. alanstevensonjr

    For my independent study project for my senior year of high school I was a volunteer coach for a local 10 year old lacrosse team. It taught me empathy. There is something about finding a way to connect and work with others especially children. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone to connect. I still call on what I learned from those kids to this day.

  12. lisa hickey

    1) Teaching kids the consequences of their actions—whether on an individual level, group level, or world level—is a way to develop empathy, and one of the best things you can do as a parent, IMO. The key is to figure out a way to incorporate it into the every day, so it doesn’t come across as scolding or shaming but interesting, engaging examples of what you see.2) Using social media along with your kids—Ok, I know this sounds odd to some people. But I am friends with my kids friends on social media, I’m friends with their boyfriends and girlfriends and the people they are close with. (Often they friend me first, with my kids OK). My kids trust me to to use these connections wisely—not to judge or spy, but I actually use it to model empathy as much as I can. That is, share joy when someone expresses joy and to offer help when someone needs help. It is really very simple, and I think social media is great at amplifying empathy. (I realize it can also amplify harm, but I talk about that with my kids too).3) Encouraging my kids to take very specific actions that make a difference. When the Newtown shooting occurred, my youngest daughter was in high school. She immediately organized a fund-raiser with her peers and then went a step further. She researched the siblings of the victims, to find out as much as possible their ages and interests. Often she would find something like “Victim A used to love to cook with her older sister”. So my daughter used part of the money she raised to buy a cooking set for the older sister. And did that for as many of the siblings of the kids she could find. So she bough specific items–basketballs, light sabers, craft kits, musical instruments— and wrote personal notes on all of them. I drove my daughter down to Newtown to drop off the gifts—we were overwhelmed with the amount of stuff already at the memorial and thought her gifts wouldn’t make a difference. But the townspeople embraced us and thanked us over and over for the action of coming down personally to show we cared. And then we got a personal email from one of the moms of a shooting victims as to how how thoughtful my daughter’s actions were. BTW, at every step of the way my daughter was discouraged from taking action by some people. She did it anyway. Empathy is action, not feeling.4) A new thing I learned, over on Gotham Gal’s blog—we were talking about death, and a commenter mentioned that if someone is dying, the best thing you can do is tell them how much meaning they brought to your life. That gives them the peace to die knowing their life had real meaning. And that was a WOW for me. First of all—it immediately flips the idea going to see someone when they are dying from one of dread to one of purpose, to something I *want* to do, not fear. Tell the person what they mean to you—of course! And my next thought was—why wait til someone is dying? Telling someone about what they mean to you in life is different than “paying compliments” (which implies a transaction). It’s looking deep into how that person’s actions affected you personally and letting them know. And that helps teach both you and the other person empathy. (See point #1 above.)

  13. Twain Twain

    I’m not a parent; not lucky enough yet to meet a great guy who is my compliment / complement.Still, I can share these experiences.(1.) In my late teens I taught maths to two boys who were 7 and 9. Their Dad had died a few years before and their mother was struggling to make ends meet, so they didn’t have as much time with her as they needed.All sorts of issues arose. They felt alienated from other kids, were failing in school (especially in maths) and were aggressive towards each other because she wasn’t there to provide discipline and teach them how to communicate with care towards each other.So I developed a routine with them whereby I’d teach them some maths. Then the next week test them and DELIBERATELY give some wrong answers.I’d ask them to work together to explain why and how I was wrong.You’d be amazed how two little boys learn to understand and respect what the other remembers and feels — just so they could show me where I was wrong. Haha.Great reverse psychology. They went on to pass their exams.(2.) With my friends’ kids I’m constantly giving them directions to say “Please” and “Thank you” when someone gives them something and getting them to share.By the time a baby is about 7 months old, they have a concept of possession: “This is MY milk bottle”. You can see it in their eye focus and how tight their grip is on your hands as you feed them.Even at that age, a parent can train empathy in the baby by feeding them and then showing them that the milk bottle can be offered to other people, nodding and smiling as you do so.Then the baby doesn’t feel so threatened by what could be considered as the loss of their possession.They start to understand that other people are also hungry and need feeding too and that it’s all fine.That’s super-early empathy.

    1. JamesHRH

      Way cool story about teaching the boys math.

  14. Rachel

    Too kind Liad! The kids were amazing.I also dragged them to ‘Dialogue in the Dark’, which was a very powerful experience, taking empathy to another level:In Dialogue in the Dark exhibitions, visitors are led by blind guides through a specially constructed and completely darkened space. Conveying the characteristics of a familiar environment such as a park, a street or a bar, a daily routine turns into a new experience. A reversal of roles is created as sighted people are torn from the familiar, losing the sense they rely on most – their sight. Blind people guide them, providing security while transmitting a world without pictures. The visually impaired guides open a visitors’ eyes in the dark, showing that a world without sight is not poorer, just different.

  15. Eric Satz

    I feel fortunate that my kids are empathetic; their friends know they can seek their advice and help without judgment. The larger challenge for me as a parent has been the larger role of teaching them to take a proactive approach to service for others. Thankfully, my wife serves as a wonderful role model and their schools also emphasize community service; and just last night my daughter was describing the service clubs she had joined earlier that day. No question I need to do more myself.

  16. mikenolan99

    Travel. We were lucky enough enough to travel outside of the US with our kids quite a bit while they were growing up. The downside, they didn’t play much youth sports – coaches tended to not like long weekends in Belize and three month trips to New Zealand.The Upside – children who are immune to peer pressure – who’s world view is accepting of other cultures and skin colors – and who are risk takers. They’ve gone on to live solo in Manhattan – as a 21 year old kid from Southern Minnesota – without thinking it was that big a deal. (My son’s best line – “don’t worry Mom, I’m safe from the Hurricane – my apartment is in Harlem.”) My daughter lived for a year in High School in Ecuador – and just returned from the Governor’s Trade Mission – and will be representing the LGBT community at a finance conference in NYC next month.A lot of this confidence, and world view, can be traced back to the time we spent traveling.Our biggest adventure was a 6 month trip around the world – staying in the Catholic youth hostel in Nagasaki on the anniversary of the bomb – a solar hut in Fiji – a friends condo in Greece – bicycles on the Xian wall. All told, 23 countries – mostly with public transportation and week long apartment rentals.A car dealer friend of mine could not wrap his head around spending so much time and money – I commented that the whole trip was about the price of a new Cadillac… my kids sure will remember this trip more than a new car.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Travel is a great way!! We went to Bali. Stayed on the north side of the island. Huge eye opener for my kids

    2. markjmcguire

      Travel was huge source of empathy development for my 13 year old son as well. We took him out of school last semester and spent 5 months traveling on a boat. He was forced to be adapt to different cultures and people.I think empathy is a superpower of many great entrepreneurs and I was thrilled to see him start to use empathy to navigate this strange new and exciting world we were moving through. I’d highly recommend a similar experience to anyone that is lucky enough to have the freedom to travel.

  17. Chimpwithcans

    So far my parenting involves staring in awe at the now-2-month-old girl – I look forward to teaching her to put herself in others’ shoes. Empathy and sympathy are tricky to nail down exactly – the sweet spot seems to lie somewhere in between curiosity, imagination, openness and kindness.

  18. JamesHRH

    Of course, empathy & sympathy get a bad rap from the scores of ‘touch feely’ people whose main currency in life is emotion.The worst of those folks cause conflict in order to generate the raw grist for their mill.That’s damaging, disruptive, frustrating and selfish.As someone who leans Andy’s way (low on sympathy), I try hard to remember that everyone is, in fact & by definition, doing the very best they can.

  19. panterosa,

    I am most interested in the connection between lack of empathy and STEM which @reggiedog:disqus raises.As a builder of STEAM platforms and learning games, one of the biggest benefits has been seeing kids understand the world around them – see the similarities, and the differences. A big challenge of humans is to see that we are animals, and that animals are more similar to us than we often assume. Species socialization has an inflection point in altruism (reading and EO Wilson book at the moment) and individual vs group selection.I deeply wish for STEM fields to shed their less attractive ways, and move to a more cooperative, STEAM-based inclusive cross-collaboration. Empathy builds a stronger framework when used across disciplines from many types of thinkers.

    1. Sierra Choi

      Very good point. All for STEAM

  20. Brian Pinnock

    I wonder if empathy is something AI could ever learn to emulate well?I suspect it may be one of the few human super powers (along with creativity) that we will possess over machines in future.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I adore the idea of framing empathy and creativity (and love?) as super powers 🙂

  21. creative group

    Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer!

  22. Stephen Scott

    Thanks for this. I think your on to something powerful by linking empathy with coaching, or instruction of any sort. Those who point to “mirror neurons” as the source of empathic bonding may also have a strong case to make, but it seems to me that such might be considered to be a “passive empathy” whereas you’re calling attention to the active sort.My seven-year old daughter was in a taekwondo class last year with another girl her age who had some very obvious (and, I suspect, organic) behavior challenges. My daughter liked this other kid, and felt badly that she was always distracted from class, distracting others, and failing to progress in obtaining higher-colored belts.When she asked me about this, I suggested to my daughter that she work to help guide her friend. She took this advice and began to gently nudge her friend in the right direction. And when her friend won an advance in belt color shortly thereafter (her first in three-years), my daughter was glad for her friend and also felt a sense of accomplishment herself.Maybe she’ll make for a good entrepreneur one day…

  23. Emily Steed

    Wow. Fantastic idea. Another great Gotham Gal idea 🙂 Any form of teaching / coaching really is a wonderful opportunity to learn.

    1. JamesHRH

      There is a mantra from teaching hospitals: see it, do it, show it.All 3 activities add to your knowledge base.HS kids coaching MS kids is brilliant, even for the GG.

  24. creative group

    Volunteering isnt about patting oneself on the back, taking group photos to post on social media to show how good a person you were for one day out of thirty, forty, fifty. years of your life. If is about selfless acts of giving to others and realizing it isn’t about you or family contributing but about the people less fortunate. Every year groups of volunteers from various religious organizations come in to the rescue mission doing just that photo opting. Remember why we Volunteer. Not about us but the less fortunate we claim to be helping.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Of course I’m on board with teaching empathy, without hesitation. But the “this day and age part” (echo’d yesterday, too, by the OC) gave me pause. It struck me as a “kids these days” kind of statement, which I think always warrants closer examination and questioning.Meanwhile, I think bringing meditation to school would literally change the world. It’s difficult to exercise empathy when your mind and feelings are being constantly peppered by your own mental chatter. Meditation lays a firm foundation upon which positive things like empathy can be built.And now there’s proof it works in schools:

    1. Stephen Voris

      There is value in speech and there is value in silence; there is value in emotion and value in logic. The effectiveness of each on one’s actions is multiplicative – hence, a balance of each is desirable.

  26. davidblerner

    so glad you posted on this subject…. we actually thought teaching empathy was so important that we brought in a designer-in-residence (from dschool originally) and blew-up our eship class @ columbia so we could focus on human-centered design- “empathy” from the get-go… it informs everything you need foundationally- relating to cofounders, employees, talking/understanding your customers… also what the hell to do when you do actually “get out of the building” and on and on… the students intuitively recognize how powerful it is from the get-go and love it….

  27. TeddyBeingTeddy

    The MOST successful people I know didn’t go to a fancy prep school. They went to an average HS and grew up in an avg city. The kindest kids I see don’t live in the nicest towns or go to the nicest schools. My dilemma…give the kids the best (schools and city) to hopefully give them an advantage…or make them earn it to keep them hungry, humble and not entitled?

  28. iggyfanlo

    Gandhi neurons; physical proof of both our interconnectedness and that our species is eusocial. I tried for so long to tell them and show them; soup kitchens, habitat for humanity, visits to Bowery in NYC (when it was bad); tenderloin in SF, but this video hit thing home for them… we must help each other..

  29. Megs

    I have to be honest and say I never thought about formally ensuring that I am teaching my child empathy. I try to be kind to people because that is how my father was when I grew up. Kids are pretty receptive and pick up fast on these things by observing others around them so it is important to surround them with people who focus on compassion and empathy so your child will naturally pick up and imitate the behavior. I think gestures of serving food at soup kitchens and events that help others is great and I feel it is equally important to show that same empathy and compassion to others everyday, especially when your child is with you.

  30. DJL

    Kids are masters at mimicking adults. Our Daughter (6) loves her teachers and constantly pretends she is teaching class at home. So she instructs and encourages her younger brother (4) and even us. (“Good job, Daddy!”) It is fun to watch. I echo many of the comments here – empathy can be “taught” easily by expressing it to others. Especially your kids. True empathy (not fake) pushes buttons of appreciation deep inside of us – making us want to push back.Nice Topic! (But please let’s remember 9/11 today.)

  31. JLM

    .Trying to focus on “empathy” — the ability to appreciate how another feels from that person’s unique point of view — is like working on strengthening the big toe on your right foot.We are really talking about the development of character of which empathy is one of the characteristics of a well adjusted person.In every relationship we find the opportunity to learn about character and the necessity to inject character. Character is the energy that is the ethereal investment, but crucial investment, that capitalizes that relationship.In America, once upon a time, we learned about character from parents, grandparents, godparents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, chores, dogs, sports, church/synagogue, colleges, first jobs, reading and example. Sure I’ve missed a few but you get the drift.Now, many of these institutions have been literally destroyed. Many are suspect. Many are vilified. Not suggesting that some haven’t deserved it. Just saying.Worse, we are suspect of character preferring to see many elements of a well grounded life as “weakness.” Not saying it is good or bad but when a man is criticized as being a “low energy” guy by a bombastic narcissist it is a wake up call that we don’t really have a handle on where we want to go with this world.[For the record, I have no problem with either low energy guys or bombastic narcissists. We may actually need both of them. When ideas wrestle — even when they come from low energy guys and bombastic narcissists — better ideas result. Wrestle on, y’all.]Why can’t we focus on the policy and leadership implications of what that means rather than the freakin’ name callling? Because we lack character? Empathy?Instead of focusing on empathy — your right big toe — focus on character. Focus on the whole enchilada (thinking about TexMex today).A good start for a parent is Ralph Nader’s book, The Seventeen Traditions.Mine are 26 and 29 and I wish I could take some rightful credit for how they have turned out. Like my wife says, “There’s a great book in there — How NOT to Parent. Just write everything you did.”Last point, the coaching of youth sports is a great vehicle to teach almost every element of character. When I sold a business once, I spent the next 3-4 years doing nothing but playing golf, beaching, coaching, and driving the car pool. It was a wonderful experience — for ME. Forget the kids. I got so much out of it. And, I really wasn’t as shitty a parent as my wife says I was.On today — 9-11 — remember who we are. NEVER FORGET!We Americans and our friends are a pretty good people and the folks on this blog–starting with the owner, Freddy Whatshisname, are some of the best. Thank you for being you.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Tom Labus

      It’s a national disgrace that our political discourse has collapsed in meaningless gibbersih. The only path back for the GOP is to get blown out ala Goldwater and begin to rebuild with a new generation. I say that but I don’t believe even that poundind would help. A lot of great guys rolling around in their graves these days.Have we lost our sense of history?

      1. JLM

        .Somewhere around the end of the second Eisenhower presidential term, maybe at the start of Viet Nam, maybe the assassination of JFK — we lost our way. We are still, hopelessly, lost.Standing away and not being drawn into the trap of partisan, party politics — this crop of candidates (the front runners) are proof of that.I will not belabor the point but I think we agree that there is no “there” there. We have become so partisan that we do not want to be lead by fundamentally good people, we want to be lead by whomever is going to deliver to us our own self-defined bit of the spoils.We are way better than that. I hope we are.To revert to form — the Republicans are going to win a big victory at the top and along the ticket. It will be a redux of 2014. They will not be in the winner’s circle because they were voted “for” but rather because the votes were “against” something.We are so hopelessly screwed up domestically, financially and in foreign policy that there is no shortage of reasons to vote against.Could anyone ever imagine the insanity of the racial situation in America today wherein great cities are battlegrounds of open violence?We do not remember what a great people we were and are. I will not say why, in my view, but you are absolutely correct. We have lost our way. We do not know ourselves. We have forgotten our history.Today of all days — NEVER FORGET but, also, do not despair. We will right the ship.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. DJL

          BTW – Not ONE single mainstream newspaper had story of (9/11) on the cover. The New York Times (of course) had one lauding the Iran deal. God help us all.

          1. JLM

            .It is very difficult to understand what we are thinking about as a country.It is not the Middle East where WWIII is starting (Iran, ISIS, Syria).It is not our crumbling foreign policy (Russia, China).it is not the economy which is still is bullshit racist #blacklives matter, Hillary and the emails/server, absurd immigration, low energy candidates for everything, socialists, and The Donald’s hair.We really are a little air headed and clueless. Luckily, we have college football, no?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. DJL

        Your guy is here – in the person of Ted Cruz. Sadly, he is virtually ignored by the Media because he offers solutions – not name calling, gibberish or political double-talk. This guy is VERY smart, articulate, passionate, and has the guts to fight Washington at his own expense. Sadly, I am amazed at how many conservatives are not picking up this signal. I am afraid that the entire system (government + media + citizenship) has gotten so backward that an person of his caliber has no chance simply because he is all of that. I hope I am wrong. He is the Trump we really need.

        1. Tom Labus

          I’m on the other side of this argument. I consider Cruz equally as lost or more so than the rest of that crew.

    2. Girish Mehta

      The first half of our comment is touching upon a deeper point which is probably a post in itself. As you often do, you have gone to root of the issue.Another example of this is when you think about Leadership Behaviors and Leadership Character.Leadership Behaviors are Easy to Game.A symptom of an org that *might* have had genuine success in developing leaders is when you see strong leaders with very different personal characteristics and behaviors. High Charisma and No Charisma. Extrovert and Introvert. Broad generalists and Deep Functional Experts. All who can credibly inspire.Not the only criterion by any means, but a good sign…A red flag is when you see leaders in an org who are “considered” strong leaders and have very similar characteristics / leadership behaviors. What do you think the next generation of wannabe-leaders who are observing these leaders are thinking — about how they need to behave to get to the next level. In the end, the org is breathing its own exhaust about what a leader looks like.In the case of authentic leadership, behaviors are an outcome of character.Unfortunately, many times the behaviors become the objective.

      1. JLM

        .Leadership style is one of the most interesting aspects of leadership. Almost any style will work if it is genuine and applied correctly.I have been fascinated for years about a story from the Battle of the Bulge wherein an obscure Corps Commander, Troy H Middleton, had spotted the fact that Bastogne was the key to halting the German advance.It was in his Corp’s area and nobody thought it could be held.Eisenhower had called a meeting of his commanders when he realized that the Germans were going for broke and intended to try to drive a wedge through the Allies and get to Antwerp.All these big swinging studs were at the meeting — Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, Patton — and nobody really had a good plan. They had no fulcrum against which to stop and hold the Germans while they attempted to maneuver against them.Remember, it was the middle of a bitter winter and the Germans caught them by complete tactical surprise. It was to be the last Christmas in the war. Somehow, the Germans had husbanded and organized a formidable armored force.Montgomery said he couldn’t go over to the attack for TWO WEEKS.In the middle of the meeting, Eisenhower pointed to Bastogne — which by now everyone realized was at the center of the action and was critical to the attack and the defense. Whoever held or got Bastogne was likely going to end up in the winner’s circle.Eisenhower said, “Troy says he can hold Bastogne.”That’s all he said.”Troy” was Lt Gen Troy H Middleton, a past and future President of LSU (Louisiana State University) who was an unassuming but supremely competent corps commander.Patton openly doubted it and it is reported that Eisenhower repeated himself.”Troy says he can hold Bastogne.”Eisenhower had known Troy Middleton since before WWI wherein Middleton was the youngest regimental commander in the AEF.Eisenhower built the entire plan around Troy Middleton’s word being good. Patton attacked two days later to relieve Bastogne where Middleton had stuck the 10th Armored Div and the 101st Abn Div.The 10th AD and the 101st were surrounded and the Germans were on them 24/7 trying to annihilate them.Middleton asked for the 101st — paratroopers — because he knew that paratroopers were comfortable being surrounded. They were used to dropping into the enemy’s back yard and picking a fight while surrounded.That quiet assurance and the intimate knowledge of picking the right units, held Bastogne long enough for Patton to take the Germans on the flank and to turn the fight to the Allies advantage. The resulting battle brought the Allies deep into Germany and ultimately ended the war.”Troy says he can hold Bastogne.”In the study of military history, I have never found a more iconic utterance and one that was more risky and the risk of which had greater consequences.I wrote about it here.http://themusingsofthebigre…The story goes to the style of leadership that gets things done in difficult times.If you were picking teams, who do you pick? Montgomery, Patton or Middleton?I pick Middleton, if I am smart enough to see through all the bullshit.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  32. Bill Dwight

    +1 for coaching for both parents and teens. In addition, have your kids volunteer to be referees – they’ll pick up some *serious* empathy (as well as observe some pretty heinous adult behavior).

  33. kidmercury

    happy 9/11 everyone. try empathizing with 9/11 truth today. (unless you’re scared)9/11 was an inside job,kid mercury

  34. Sam

    Two observations:A mentor of mine had the philosophy of “See one. Do one. Teach one.” when he was showing me the ropes of M&A, a method I believe he said came from medical school and residency programs when they are teaching specific surgical procedures. First you observe. Then you do it yourself. Then you develop an expertise to the point where you can teach someone else. Worked like a charm with me, and I in turn use this method myself to teach others. It occurs to me now that it’s a great way to develop empathy on both sides of the teaching relationship.The other observation about empathy is that it’s really the logical extension of curiosity when applied to the social sciences (whether anthropology, psychology, economics). Kids are naturally curious. So teaching empathy is probably nothing more complicated than encouraging their curiosity about the social sciences and pointing them in the right direction. Agree that it has a lot of parallels to coaching.

  35. JaredMermey

    So much of empathy comes from exposure, specifically exposure to ideas that are different than yours and people who come from different backgrounds. Teaching, coaching and many of the anecdotes shared here help facilitate that.

  36. Ari Levine

    Early on in parenting but always exploring how to teach my 2 year old empathy. Never been much of an athlete but my years as a camp counselor, were incredibly impactful in helping me learn to be a teacher, leader and protector of others.

  37. Pete Griffiths

    I have taken every opportunity to teach my kids to have empathy for their parents.

    1. JLM

      .Report card it, PG.Is it working?Haha.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Pete Griffiths

        It’s a work in progress. 🙂

  38. Chris Montes

    Fred, I was not the most empathetic person growing up and I believe some tragic events were the cause of my apathy. However in my first business class in college, my professor shared a video of Alan Mulally when he first came over to Ford and that changed me as a person and businessman. When I heard the quote, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood,” that changed the ballgame for me. The second coming of another empathetic lesson was when i took General Assembly’s Product Mgmt course and my instructor drilled that lesson into all of his students. Those two experiences have shaped me for the better. On a side note, I can’t and don’t remember ever being taught empathy in school.

  39. LE

    You need to try to socially engineer her to be accepting of your advice in exchange for taking the time to listen to her! Consider it a challenge and get to work. It can be done!You can also imply that she is lucky that she has a husband who actually is interested in hearing what she says to the extent that he can actually have a conversation and engage in the topic. Not every man is like that. Maybe give her some of your problems and prime her brain in advance.

  40. Robert Heiblim

    Great post thank you. I have taken the time to take my children into the real world where they can see how most of the people in the world live. Yes, they went to Cancun, but also toured internally in the Yucatan and met and talked with real people there. And much the same in China, Japan, France, etc where I have been fortunate enough to take them. Along with making volunteering a part of their curriculum which I was grateful they took on enthusiastically I think they have developed both appreciation for what they enjoy and empathy for others. Watching my daughter treat with seniors, or at a local food pantry is great reward.

  41. matthughes

    I couldn’t agree more…I coached youth soccer for one season when I was in high school.It was fun working with the kids but I probably learned more dealing with the parents, referees & league admins — all adults — they were probably the ones learning empathy in that case.We went undefeated by the way.

  42. ShanaC

    I missed an awesome week..I think it’s possible to teach empathy. A huge amount is interacting with very different people than you so that you can gain perspective on not yourself.It’s one of the primary reasons reading literature is powerful- it literally activates empathy centers in the brain. The more you read from perspectives different than your own, the more you learn about how others think.So interact with others and read books by people really different than you!

  43. Donna Brewington White

    I think the best way to teach kids empathy is to demonstrate it. Especially toward them. Especially when it’s hardest.

  44. jason wright

    “Where’s your empathy, brother? It’s a substance abuse problem.” – Heat.

  45. Will Pangman

    Check out this great talk by my teammate on how Bitcoin and decentralized tech is fostering increased empathy:

  46. Douglas Crets

    I’m not a parent, but in the school where I am a director of tech learning operations, we teach kids to build products based on people’s real situations. One girl developed a micro needle insulin “watch” because her grandmother has diabetes. She spent several weeks learning about how her grandmother deals with such an issue, while also designing solutions that were best experienced from her grandmother’s POV. We do this with several kids a year, and it’s an opt-in experience, which is growing in scale. The outcome is twofold — a real product and a real service designed from empathy, and deeper integration into the community, which dissolves the wall between what school is and what community is. In fact, they are the same, and we take away the walls because one aspect of learning is about being a person who provides solutions to the community.

  47. Adrian Palacios

    My child is only two, but I am already working on building empathy through story time. I believe that reading stories is a great way to put yourself in another person’s shoes.As an English Literature major turned data analyst I’m hoping I can be a part of creating an opening for the humanities in the tech world, even if that means starting with heated debates with developers about why they should consider personas when writing code.I’d also like to get more people to read fiction at my company. Perhaps I’ll start a book club or a small bookshelf of things to read 🙂

  48. andyswan

    I feel ya. But please, don’t waste your life living for me.

  49. JLM

    .The key to empathy is not just appreciating that person’s feelings, it is feeling them from THEIR point of view.One year, I made my family forego any Christmas presents. I can’t explain why.We had the typical obscene excess of presents all cloaked in the spirit of Christmas and outpouring of love. Man were we feeling it. Wow!The Christmas pics with the big house and the big tree and the fireplace and the largess of presents and the bambinos in their Christmas morning bedhead and PJs — Norman Fucking Rockwell.That year, I said, “Nobody is getting anything. Nothing.”The first bargaining position was, “Tyrant father, unenlightened insane person — why not just a “few” presents and we can otherwise go with your bat shit crazy idea?”Of course, I said, “No. We are going to adopt a family or two (came through the church) and we are going to be their present givers.”Bit sanctimonious and faux righteous and smugness at work. Admitted.We did it and we went to someone else’s house. No big house. No big Christmas tree. No big roaring Christmas fire. No Christmas morning bed head and PJs and ocean of presents. Poverty. People living hard and cold and mean less than five miles from our home.It was stark. It was striking. It was the best thing we ever did. Ever.What Christmas do my beloved children remember?You got it. That Christmas. Not the Christmases of the largesse — the Christmas of nothing. The Christmas in which the spirit of Christmas was alive in them.That night My Perfect Daughter and Unruly Son were weepy and teary and changed. They had seen what the real world was like. THROUGH SOMEONE ELSE’S EYES.Their father got a damn good lesson about materialism and other good things to know about. It was like the Holy Ghost sat me down and told me how the cow was supposed to eat the freakin’ cabbage and I hadn’t been listening.It was a game changer. I can still smell the tamales. Tamales (you don’t eat the husks, y’all — pro tip).JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  50. LE

    Envy isn’t something we experience often among Mennonites.I envy their lack of envy, which must make me an evil altruist?Strong religious brainwashing overcomes a great deal of normal human emotions perhaps.I have always noted about any strong religious upbringing (judaism, evangelical shit say, and what you are talking about) always involves behavior by the parent as far as what is good for the parent, not for the child.The parent does what they need to do to make sure the child doesn’t stray from the roost and ends up with the same values of the parent. While all parents do this, the degree to which people who are orthodox in their religion operate is totally unbending and confining.Kids not only don’t get a vote they are raised in a way that they don’t even think they need a vote. The brainwashing is extensive. I know nothing about Mennonites however there is no question that from a young age they are most likely taught to be repulsed by the values of greater society. So it’s distasteful to them at the core. They see it as bad. Would be similar to one of us being envious of the lifestyle of people who do cocaine and drugs. Or those who make their living selling drugs. Think of it that way.

  51. JamesHRH

    Irony level of Spinal Tap 11 on the repeat use of ‘feel ya’? Too funny, even if it is unconscious.Your definition of wasting your life is of course, merely your definition.I think success is external and fulfilment is internal.Some people trade away success for greater fulfilment, My son’s current Gr 5 teacher comes up 7-7-7 on that slot machine. She thinks it is an ‘honor and a privilege that we entrust our 10 year olds with her for so much of the day & to help them learn such important skills.”Never really looked at it quite like that until Curriculum Night rolled around this week.When you tell Charlie that he is wasting his life living it the way he chooses, you are merely applying your ‘ right answer ‘ for how to live your life to him (and therefore, everybody).I’m not even saying you are wrong.But when you say dumb shit like that, you give folks a limited number of choices:- arrogant- ignorant- immatureTough list.

  52. andyswan

    Probably arrogant.  Maybe ignorant but I wouldn’t know if that was true 🙂

  53. Matt A. Myers

    My favourite Christmas memory is when we’d go to a forest lot my father had in his family for years and cut down a tree, bring it back home, put it up, and decorate it.The few years we did it I remember being full of family stresses that existed, however the decorated tree and smell was the counterbalance that made it worthwhile.

  54. LE

    Bit sanctimonious and faux righteous and smugness at work. Admitted.I am glad you called bullshit on what you did.The truth is that is all feel good shit that comes and goes. My guess is that you never did that again and continued with the status quo of giving presents.Even more to the point I am sure you probably wanted your daughter to marry into a nice family like the type you had or even better. Not the family less than five miles from your home. Somebody like you who shared your lifestyle and values. Maybe even a Dad that was a peer that you could spend some quality time with. I would all else equal.What Christmas do my beloved children remember? You got it. That Christmas. Not the Christmases of the largesse — the Christmas of nothing. The Christmas in which the spirit of Christmas was alive in them.Well they would have also remembered a Christmas where a deer jumped through the window more than any other Christmas, right?What do I remember about Christmas growing up? Having to wait for the “after Christmas sales” for Chanukah presents. Remember those?

  55. LE

    You and I are truly Oscar Madison and Felix Unger. They should do a sitcom with us. Our parents will get union scale for cameos. The pitch can be “The Odd Couple” meets “Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.

  56. LE

    My older cousin doesn’t think he was brainwashed either. But when his father died he got up every morning early to go to the synagogue and say a prayer for his father. 365 days a year. Plus he is kosher and shomer shabbos which means he doesn’t travel, work or do anything on Friday night after sundown and Saturday. He didn’t come to this type of behavior on his own as practical or rational it was a result of his the way his father raised him. Not doing it to him would be like not taking a shower or working. It’s just what he does.What’s odd is that another cousin with the same father (the less “perfect” one) rebelled and married a non jewish girl. A “shiksa”. Got her pregnant. The family was mortified they worked to get her converted prior to the baby being born and before getting married. Was quite a payback for assuming all kids can be manipulated to the parents wishes. With another relative with a strict upbringing the same situation. One “perfect” kid one kid less perfect. Less perfect kid went with the “jews for jesus” movement. He was a nice kid also he just wasn’t his brother. (Same with the one who knocked up the girl. Nice smart kid, just not perfect enough to the parents liking).

  57. JLM

    .LE –Wait for it. Here it comes — BAD GUESS!Haha, that was fun. No, LE, bad guess indeed.My Perfect Daughter is getting married on Halloween in about six weeks. Her beaux is a very fine young Jewish man from a very fine family from Savannah.My theory on children is the same way I was raised — you get them ready for the real world and then you throw them in the deep end of the ocean and let them swim because you have adequately prepared them to swim.Just the same thing my Old Man did for me.My Perfect Daughter whipped through college without ever being confronted with a B, went to NYC and got a job by herself, went to work for a startup and is crushing it, has her own little startup — — and is marrying the guy she wants to marry.I told her that if she didn’t marry him, I intended to adopt him. He is a very fine young man with a masters in accounting and a family business.When he proposed to her — they both went to UGA — he rented the entire Georgia Theater (where they had met while on dates with others), had the marquee lettered “Where It All Began” and was waiting for her on the center stage with a single chair. On bended knee, he proposed.He is her guy and that’s all that matters to me. Well, that and a shot at having red headed grandchildren.I may bullshit you about a few things but if I tell you something important, it will check out.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  58. LE

    Her beaux is a very fine young Jewish man from a very fine family from Savannah.How was that a bad guess then? She is marrying into (your words) “a fine family”.What kind of business is the boy’s family in if I may ask?

  59. JLM

    .Big retail distribution business — sell to the big boxes kind of biz. Old, established.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…