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EmpathyAccording to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the meaning of empathy is “the experiencing as one’s own of the feelings of another”.

Empathy is a great tool to have in your toolbox for success.

When I taught first grade several years ago, the one rule in my classroom was the golden rule – treat others the way you would want to be treated. This translates to putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Easy for most to grasp; however, for those with various isms, not so easy.  This concept can be taught cognitively to those with social cognitive deficit disorders.

Discover Perspective Taking

When my son entered high school, the administration admitted they didn’t know what to do with autism. So, they hired a consultant 400 miles away from the Michelle Garcia Winner Thinking Center.  One concept the specialists taught my son, JJ, was how to take the perspective of others – empathy.

Winner calls this technique “Perspective Taking.”  In her book “Thinking about You, Thinking about Me” Winner states “perspective taking is a casual term used to describe the ability of one person to consider the point of view and motives of themselves as well as others.”

Decisions we make affect others.  Think about the consequences it will have on others and in the long run the consequences it will have on you.

My son was introduced to this technique at 16 years old only because that is when we were introduced to it. I would have taught this to JJ at a much earlier age if I had known this technique.  I highly recommend that parents begin teaching perspective taking as soon as possible.

How to Teach Perspective Taking

The way Winner’s clinic taught my son was cognitively, visually through her social behavioral map.  Her book covers many ways, but social behavioral mapping worked wonders for my son by mapping out how his behavior affected others.

Through the process of mapping, he could visually see it.  Behavioral mapping has helped him with making decisions and producing appropriate behavior for social interactions. The social behavioral map has helped my son process the behaviors of others visually and cognitively.

We also took the opportunity to problem solve as situations arise.  We would come up with better solutions for the next time through the mapping technique.   It didn’t happen overnight but with consistency and persistence, it’s paid off.

Enhanced Reading Comprehension

An added bonus – with perspective taking, JJ’s reading comprehension went through the roof.  When he was tested in high school at Winner’s clinic, his reading comprehension was 0%.  After teaching him perspective taking, he was able to put himself in the character’s shoes.  JJ has since graduated college thanks to the  excellent reading comprehension due to perspective taking.

Perspective taking is a tool for social success. We can cognitively and visually teach our kids how their decisions and behavior affect others – and in the long run, how that makes them personally feel.  Empathy is a great tool for all of us to have in our toolbox.