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Five Ways to Develop Empathy in Generation Z

January 06, 2020
By Coastal Community School
Tim Elmore

On Leading the Next Generation, Insights from Tim Elmore

In a recent article, Tim Elmore share some insights on relating to Gen Z:

The Experiment

In May 2007, an Iraqi artist named Wafaa Bilal decided to move into a gallery space in Chicago. He planned to do a 30-day experiment on “empathy” in light of what had happened to his brother In Iraq. His brother had been killed by an airstrike from a drone that was shot by a soldier far away. Wafaa was shocked by how the shooter could emotionally disconnect from the targets he shot at, even when they’re human. Wafaa’s experiment would allow him to observe empathy levels in people when they are allowed to hurt someone from a distance. His gallery space could be seen online by anyone around the world. In the room was a desk, a lamp, a bed and a paintball gun rigged to a camera that users could take aim and shoot anything in that room, anytime, day or night.

What happened?

Ordinary people from multiple nations shot him with that paintball gun more than 70,000 times. He was stunned and saddened by how anonymous people hurt him.  In just 30 days, Wafaa discovered what a disconnected, isolated and fractured world we live in. Why would people who don’t even know him choose to shoot at him?

The War For Kindness

Stanford researcher Jamil Zaki wrote the book this year called, The War for Kindness, Building Empathy in a Fractured World. In the book, Zaki attempts to discover if technology and modern life make us less caring. Are we more desensitized and jaded when it comes to suffering?

Jamil talks about an experiment that was done at a shopping mall (public space) where a table and bucket are set up for donations to be made to needy children. They wanted to discover what moved people toward empathetic generosity? At times, they stationed a child in a wheelchair next to the table; at other times, no one at all. Sometimes they would post photos of hungry or disabled children next to the table and at other times they’d post faces of happy, smiling children.

What they discovered was insightful.

The researchers discovered that not only did people donate less when a disabled child or a photo of a disabled child was nearby, people actually walked further away from the display, avoiding contact with the opportunity to give. When they spoke to those people—especially young people—about this reaction, researchers found out why. Teens would say things like: “I am sad enough in my life right now; I don’t want to be even sadder.”  Or, they’d say: “I’m fighting depression,” or “I am already overwhelmed with everything in my life, so I don’t need anything else to worry about.”

Generation Z is overwhelmed and over-exposed. They are growing up in a world that is more isolated, more polarized and more de-humanized, by screens and content with which they’ve been exposed. Sadly, while we see more needs around us than ever, we’ve become more jaded by it at times. We feel “sad” and want to avoid sadness. Exposure without application can do that to anyone. The glass will always seem half-empty unless we choose to fill the glass.

Jamil Zaki believes we need to create an “Empathy Gymnasium.”

Building an Empathy Gymnasium for Generation Z - five fundamentals we can insert into kids’ lives to kindle empathy in them:

1. Place them with people who are different.

One way to begin to develop empathy is to expose students to those who are different than them, so they begin to see that “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” 

2. Expose them to needs and suffering up close.

These exposures must be up-close and personal. Close enough for them to see, feel, smell and hear the needs of others. 

3. Introduce them to problems that are unique.

Sometimes we withdraw in our comfort zones because we are unsure about the unknown. I found when students see unique problems that capture their imaginations, it cuts through the noise and clutter of their minds. 

4. Enable them to reflect on how it’s relevant.

Kids feel empathy when they reflect on the relevance of another’s suffering. Research works best when it’s “me-search,” involving needs they can identify with. 

5. Help them take one step in response.

Empathy is cultivated when students observe suffering and it leads to action. In fact, the way we enable students to prevent becoming jaded or cynical is to find one action step whenever they see someone in pain. 

 

Read the full article here:  https://growingleaders.com/blog/five-ways-to-develop-empathy-generation-z/?mc_cid=910c7291a4&mc_eid=07a7b6e77d

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