Tena koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui atawhai.
In the year where our core Mercy value focus is on Manaakitanga – Care – we define this value as: Creating an inclusive environment that welcomes all; and Responding in a practical way to those in need.
One way to explore how this might look is to use the term ‘empathy’. ‘Empathy as ‘feeling with’ someone – being able to put yourself in their place as if you were them, and feeling those feelings.’ Click HERE for more about empathy.
Our current Prime Minister is a great example of how to put empathy into practice. ‘One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong…. It takes courage and strength to be empathetic, and I’m very proudly … empathetic and compassionate … I am trying to chart a different path, and that will attract criticism but I can only be true to myself.”
The empathy website states that psychologists identify three different types of empathy. These are cognitive, emotional and compassionate empathy.
Cognitive empathy, also known as ‘perspective-taking’ is not really what most of us would think of as empathy at all. Cognitive empathy is basically being able to put yourself into someone else’s place, and see their perspective.
Emotional empathy is when you quite literally feel the other person’s emotions alongside them, as if you had ‘caught’ the emotions.
Finally, compassionate empathy is what we usually understand by empathy: feeling someone’s pain, and taking action to help. Compassion is about feeling concern for someone, but with an additional move towards action to mitigate the problem.
As a general rule, people who want or need your empathy don’t just need you to understand (cognitive empathy), and they certainly don’t need you just to feel their pain or, worse, to burst into tears alongside them (emotional empathy).
Instead, they need you to understand and sympathise with what they are going through and, crucially, either take, or help them to take, action to resolve the problem, which is compassionate empathy.
Our students’ continuing work on recognising and responding to racism is compassionate empathy in action – courageous student, taking action, speaking up, to make others aware and to understand another’s perspective.
Our recent Pink Day at school was another great example of compassionate empathy in action. Students, all dressed in an amazing array of pink outfits, setting up a range of stalls and activities to raise funds to support women with breast cancer.
Mercy women ‘charting a different path’ by ‘creating an inclusive environment’ and ‘responding in a practical way’ that is true to our Mercy wairua.