Communication and Empathy
Finland is an increasingly multicultural society, with people from very different backgrounds, studying and working together. This makes it more important than ever that students learn to communicate with understanding and respect. An essential skill here is empathy, the ability to put yourself in another person’s place and to imagine how he or she might be thinking or feeling in a particular situation.
The empathy and communication exercises help students learn to recognize and understand the importance of the universal needs, worries, and feelings that human beings have. For any attempt at conflict-solving to work, these universal conditions must first be identified and respected. These exercises also help students to develop ways of dealing with these universal conditions in ways that are fair and respectful to everybody. The exercises support the aims of the national middle school (junior high) and high school curriculums in developing students’ skills in empathy, creative and critical thinking, self-expression, presentation skills, and cooperation and communication skills. At the same time students are encouraged to critically examine and improve on their own ways of dealing with conflicts.
The exercises are downloadable as PDF files.
1. Dealing with everyday conflicts
All human interactions involve different types of conflict. This exercise helps students to learn to identify different types of conflict and to deal with them effectively.
2. Recognizing basic human needs and concerns
This role play helps students to identify the basic, universal needs and worries that all people have. Students learn about how these universal conditions affect everyday life, and how they create and prolong conflicts.
3. Building on our strengths
With this exercise, students learn to understand their own habitual ways of thinking about conflicts and conflict-solving. In this way, they learn how to take a more open-minded approach to thinking about conflict.
4. Conflict-solving with a mediator
In this role play, one student acts as a mediator and the whole class consider ways of tackling clashes of interests through discussion.
5. Just listen!
In solving conflicts everyone needs to be heard. For that to be possible, others must be able to listen. This is not always as easy as you might think. With practice, every person can learn to become a better listener.
6. How do you feel when people around you fight?
This short exercise gets students to critically discuss their own habitual attitudes towards arguments that go on around them.
7. The orange exercise
Perhaps the most important of all peacemaking skills is creativity – which this exercise is all about! This means looking at problems in new, often surprising ways and coming up with new, often surprising solutions.
8. Just four words
An excellent conflict-solving exercise for finding a shared outlook on any topic.
9. Hidden interests
This exercise demonstrates how harmful it is if conflicting sides have some aim or interest that they keep secret from others.
10. To knot or not to knot
A simple but effective exercise that highlights how easily conflicts can arise in everyday situations.
11. Feelings, needs and empathy in conflict-solving
In this exercise, students work in pairs to practice non-violent discussion. The goal is to learn to appreciate the importance of feelings and needs in any conflict.
12. Quick brainstorming exercises
These short exercises help students to come up with thoughts related to peacemaking.
13. The importance of empathy
This exercise can be done as either a group discussion or a short essay. The aim is to get students to consider how they would feel in various situations. This gives them an understanding of how important empathy is to peacemaking.