Perhaps unlike their U.S. peers, kids in Denmark—where happiness levels are the highest on Earth—are taught in school to care for one another from a young age.
Contrary to popular belief, most people do care about the welfare of others.When I was younger I might have dismissed this as new age twaddle. But I'm older now, and I've learned to appreciate that people are, to varying degrees, interdependent on one another. No one lives in a vacuum, and certainly "successful" people have good relationships with other people.
From an evolutionary standpoint, empathy is a valuable impulse that helps humans survive in groups. In American schools, this impulse has been lying dormant from a lack of focus. But in Denmark, a nation that has consistently been voted the happiest place in the world since Richard Nixon was president, children are taught about empathy from a young age both inside and outside of school.
Another, less obvious example of empathy training in Danish schools is in how they subtly and gradually mix children of different strengths and weaknesses together. Students who are stronger academically are taught alongside those who are less strong; shier kids with more gregarious ones; and so on. The goal is for the students to see that everyone has positive qualities and to support each other in their efforts reach the next level. The math whiz may be terrible at soccer, and vice versa. This system fosters collaboration, teamwork, and respect.
Studies show that this system of interactive teaching involves a steep learning curve. Students who teach others work harder to understand the material, recall it more precisely, and use it more effectively. But they also have to try to understand the perspective of other students so they can help them where they are having trouble. The ability to explain complicated subject matter to another student is not an easy task, but it is an invaluable life skill. Research demonstrates that this type of collaboration and empathy also delivers a deep level of satisfaction and happiness to kids; interestingly, people’s brains actually register more satisfaction from cooperating than from winning alone.
Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that empathy is one of the single most important factors in fostering successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and businesses. It reduces bullying, increases one’s capacity to forgive, and greatly improves relationships and social connectedness. Empathy enhances the quality of meaningful relationships, which research suggests is one of the most important factors in a person’s sense of well being. Research also suggests that empathetic teenagers tend to be more successful because they are more purpose-driven than their more narcissistic counterparts. And if you think about it, it all makes sense. Successful people don’t operate alone; every human needs the support of others to achieve positive results in his or her life. [...]
Empathy does matter. I think we are sometimes resistant to it because our empathy can be manipulated for political or commercial purposes. But regardless of attempts to misuse it, it still has a place in human society. There is a lot of alienation in American culture. You have to wonder, if children were taught to recognize and understand empathy and human emotions, their own and others, at an early age, if there would be less school shootings and bullying?
As a landlord, I've also seen a lot of people, many young people, who seem to have no control over their emotions, and they often end up being evicted, because they lack self control and seem not to understand basic human interactions. They seen not to understand their own emotions, and unable to empathize with other peoples emotions. In frustration, they become angry and lash out, which only makes their problems worse. It does not bode well for our culture or our country.
I'm amazed at how many young people I see, who have everything going for them, who have much more help and resources available to them than I did at their age, repeatedly fail and sabotage themselves. They are angry all the time, and seem to lack basic social skills to succeed in life. Even if one does not agree with everything in this article, I would still say there is definitely room for improvement in this area.
thank you for this report - my own son, still a teenager, is very much attracted to the Danish/Scandinavian lifestyle - my own (and his Great Grandfather) was born and raised in Copenhagen making my Father whom recently passed away one-half Danish blood - hence that being a part of our ancestral bloodline - it surprised me how he totally embraces their culture - after this "Thank You" will printout the piece and give it to him and I am quite sure he will appreciate it - good work (as usual) Take care Chas
how funny as I perused your blog I re read this post and notice a "comment" and it was Moi - Yes empathy is sorely lacking in our society today - a few factors responsible could be social media or becoming a person "desensitized" by all the endless shooting(s) terrorist attacks - even natural disasters lately - I have witnessed my 16 yr old Son becoming more of an auto man even given boys that age can be very mean due to changes etc - also the fine art of "Conversation" is becoming extinct - when one dines out the families or any customer is on his or her "device" I wonder how this attachment to one's device and the importance of posting and getting "likes" on social media is affecting children especially those home with Mom whom is not really attentive - when children are sent the message that they do not come first in your World which is their only World it can be damaging to their self esteem - just my humble input - one last thought when my Son was a bit younger - Middle School - I sent away for "Random Acts of Kindness" material and would pay for the person's coffee/food in line at a drive thru-I remember my Son saying "when I grow up I am going to come here every week and do this" - very sweet at the time - now in H.S. he is actually becoming more and more jaded - *sigh
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