To Create Empathy, Exercise Your Imagination: Smack-Dab-in-the-Imagination by Dia Calhoun

Emotional intelligence is now considered to be as important for children to develop as traditional intellectual intelligence. One component of emotional intelligence is the capacity for empathy. So that has me wondering--can you have empathy without having imagination? To understand another’s situation, don’t you have to be able to imagine yourself in their shoes? If that’s true, shouldn’t we also be cultivating imagination?

One of the best ways to do that is through writing stories about other people. Imagining yourself as the first person “I” of someone else’s story does put you in their shoes. An interesting writing exercise for kids would be to have them think of someone they don’t understand, or dislike (not someone in their school!) and then write a story from that person’s point of view. What is the other person’s story? What is their life like? And perhaps generate empathy by asking the question prompted by the famous (and variously attributed quote), “be kind because everyone is fighting a hard battle.” What battle is that person fighting that might give you insight into her reasons for doing what she does?

To create empathy, exercise your imagination.


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