Tag: empathy

The Go To Go Girl!: What My Dreadlocks Taught Me About Practicing Compassion

With music up, ear buds in, working in a cafe in Oakland, I was interrupted by a woman. I noticed her the moment I walked in and stood in line to order my latte. She was striking. Colorful clothing and adorned by big statement jewelry. I also noticed her almost-mohawk hairstyle. Very cool. After sitting near her for about an hour, she walked over to me and asked me a question. I missed it because of the ear buds.

“I’m sorry?” I asked.

“Are you white?” she reiterated.

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Pass Out Love on Halloween

If you are lucky, you are going to have dozens of kids come to your home tomorrow night in hopes that you will give them a treat.  This is a huge opportunity!  In addition to candy (yes, please don’t forget the candy), why not show them how much you care about them and their safety.  Eliminating bullying in our communities will happen when all children feel safe, valued, and respected by caring, empathetic adults.  This Halloween, you can work with your daughter to make and spread care and empathy throughout your community using art.

HalloweenHandoutUSAThe website hisnamewasteven.org is dedicated to providing anti-bullying resources.  The have created a poster (right) that you can access from their site that is designed to be passed out on Halloween to provide kids with practical information about where they can turn if they are victims of bullying.  Get that poster here.

The practical support is important, but so is emotional support.  Tonight, grab your art supplies and spend some time with your daughter creating your own original posters featuring inspirational words and/or images that show trick-or-treaters you care about them.  The act of making the posters alone will give you another opportunity to connect with your daughter about empathy.  While you are creating, ask her:

  • “What do you imagine it feel likes for people to be bullied?
  • How do you think kids will feel when they get these beautiful posters we have made?”

Giving away your creations will feel great for both of you.  It will be fun for the kids who get them.  Plus, you never know what difference your words of encouragement  will make in someone’s life.

Need inspiration yourself?  Pinterest is a great source of inspirational quotes you might want to use in your posters.  Check out our Inspiring Quotes board.  Also, check out this one and this one.

Work out Your Empathy Muscles with Playback Theater

Some members of the Living Arts Playback Theater Ensemble
Some members of the Living Arts Playback Theater Ensemble

Allison (Go Girls! co-founder) is a member of the Living Arts Playback Theater Ensemble.  Playback theater is “is an improvisational form whereby personal stories told by audience members are transformed into theater pieces.”  I consider Allison and the rest of her company members to be master empathizers as they are constantly doing the hard work of listening deeply to other people’s stories and, using a variety of theater forms, telling their audiences “We hear you. We hear you so well that we even hear what you are not saying.  We hear you.  We understand you.  And we are creating this space so that you can all better understand each other.”

Building more empathetic communities is the number one strategy for eliminating societal issues such as bullying.  I define empathy as the ability to recognize, understand, and relate to the humanity in each other.  When I can truly empathize with you, I cannot possibly wish you harm.  When you truly empathize with me, you understand that, although we may not share the same histories and experiences, we share the same emotions.  We both understand fear and joy and anger and awe.  If we can connect through our emotional experience, we can wish each other well and build healthy relationships.

The good news is that empathy is a muscle that can be trained and exercised and strengthened.  Why not take a tip from the master empathizers and build your empathy muscle using some Playback Theater?

  1. For an example of Playback Theater in action, refer back to our “Throw your Mistakes in the Tower of Oops” post where we feature a video of playback in action.
  2. Allison & Tesla Face OffConnect with your daughter when you can make the time and space for deep listening and deep sharing.
  3. Ask her to share about the best thing that happened to her that day, a mistake she made or about any problem that happened.
  4. Play back her story exactly as she shared it- don’t add any solutions, advice or interpretations.
  5. Be sure to playback the feelings of her story.  Playing back the feelings is more important than playing back the exact details of the story.   If you are not sure about her feelings, ask about them before you do the playback.
  6. When acting out the story, make her laugh by taking on all the different characters in her story, using props and being dramatic.  Be authentic and play back her feelings with care.
  7. If you feel too uncomfortable acting her story out, try another art form:
    1. PLAYBACK with WATERCOLOR or any art supplies you are drawn to (pastels, sharpies, glitter, collage, metallic pens, paint or charcoal pencils
    2. PLAYBACK with MUSIC improvising a song on the spot about her story or playing your favorite instrument while speaking your interpretation of her story
    3. PLAYBACK with WRITING by putting her story into a poem or “once upon a time” story that write out after listening to her, then read back
    4. PLAYBACK with MEDIA by illustrating her story in a comic, animation or graphics using on-line software
    5. PLAYBACK with DANCE by improvising movement that honors her story- be sure to use your whole body (including face) to really show the feelings and each moment she went throughYou are showing her what a great listener you can be without judgment and teaching her that her stories are important
  8. By playing back her story, you are showing her what a great listener you can be without judgment and teaching her that her stories are important.
  9. Make sure to give her a turn to play back a story of yours!  Remember, you are both giving your empathy muscle a work out.  Before you share a story, remember:
    1. Tell a story on the same theme she’s going to share (favorite part of day, mistake you made or problem)
    2. Share something that actually happened and be open about what your feelings were
    3. Choose a story that is a good fit for her to hear developmentally and won’t be too much for her to process
    4. By sharing in this way, you are modeling how to be vulnerable and trusting her to see you as a person.  This builds empathy and trust.

This post is #14 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others.  Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month?  CLICK HERE and we’ll send ‘em right to your email!

For more incredible Go Girls! resources for helping your girl stay safe, happy, and healthy in her relationships, check out Kidpower and get your copy of Starring Celia.

Go Girls! Week in Review: April 20

This past week has been full.  Very full.  And it’s been a profound week…for all of us, hasn’t it?  From the Boston Marathon bombing, to the explosion in West, Texas to the Gun Control filibuster, we have seen folks come together under extreme duress and folks ripped apart over politics and ideology.  America’s compassion muscles have certainly been tested this week.  So much so that I woke up yesterday morning with the overwhelming need to share what we here at Go Girls! have been up to this week.  I hope you will see that we really are “walking our talk” and doing the work it takes to ignite the Compassion Revolution that we all so desperately need.

Here are 5 highlights from the past week:

1. Go Girls! Camp Staff Reunion & Gathering: Last Saturday, April 13, the incredible team of Lead Teaching Artists came to Allison and my home for brunch, hugs, and conversation in preparation for this summer’s camps.  We are so grateful to be working with this team of smart, passionate, dedicated, reflective, and talented women.  Take a look at the photo album from the event and the video we made (below).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hY5MpoMA2c]

OMG Online Course Logo2. Course Outline Complete for upcoming OMG UR My BFF: Helping Girls Navigate the Friendship Drama.  Allison and I are working on a brand new product that we can’t be more excited about.  Girl Advocates is a learning series we are developing to help parents, educators, and other caring adults come together to receive inspiration, information, and tools to help prepare our girls for happy, healthy lives.  We consider it “education for the compassion revolution.”  The course will be online and self-paced and will launch on May 15.  Learn more here…

3. Edutopia @ Glenview Elementary: For many years, I have been a big fan of the website, Edutopia.org (a program of the George Lucas Educational Foundation).  The site finds and features model programs and ideas for “what works in education.”  And according to the Foundation, our partner school, Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, WORKS!  Go Girls! has been a program at Glenview for the last 2 years now, and Allison, who is in charge of all of the amazing work that is happening there, was interviewed this past Thursday by the folks at Edutopia.  We will be part of a video documentary about what is working at Glenview to come out this summer or fall.  We’ll certainly keep you posted!

4. The Alphabet Rockers @ Go Girls!:  We have also been huge fans of the Alphabet Rockers, an educational hip hop crew, for many years and have dreamed of ways we might come together.  Finally, on Wednesday, we secured founder Kaitlin McGaw as a guest artist for our July 9-18 session at the JCC in Berkeley.  She will be adding her talent and expertise as a musician and teaching artists to our Onceuponatime & Ever After theme – teaching girls techniques in singing, beat boxing, and other forms of vocal performance as a way to share their stories.  The Rockers are headed out of town next week for a tour of Boston and NYC.  We wish them luck!

5. The Art of Empathy at the Mentoring Conference: On Thursday, I presented my workshop, The Art of Empathy, to an incredible group of professionals at Friends for Youth’s Annual Mentoring Conference in Santa Clara.  It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to spend this time with these folks, especially given everything that has happened this week in our country…in the world.  The workshop focused on how to practice and teach empathy with groups of children using the arts, theater, and play; how to be more empathetic as a mentor in an one-on-one relationship with a mentee; and how to use the practice of emotion coaching as a key empathy practice to help kids be more in charge of their own emotional health.