Empathy and Communication: Educating for Interaction

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Lawrence Blum


In traditional educational arenas, rarely does the curriculum focus on how individuals should interact with one another. Yet in a society where interactions are a significant part of our lives, there should be more emphasis on this subject. By neglecting this subject, we fractionalize society, breaking down the natural unity of our world. However, the subject of how to interact with others links closely with the age old moral question, how should one live? There are often disagreements on how to answer this question and consequently disagreements on how and if it can be taught. This paper is the beginning of a search for how interactions can be taught through empathy and communication. Through the critical thinking skills that support these concepts, individuals can learn how to interact more effectively and morally with others. I began this study by endeavoring to obtain a greater understanding of empathy and its nature. I reviewed the works of several philosophers and psychologists such as Lipps, Stotland, Hoffman, Scheler, and Noddings. Their writings led me to understand empathy as the act of receiving another into oneself through affective and analytical means in order to understand another's frame of reference accurately. This paper then discusses how empathy can be developed. Many of the empathy development suggestions overlap with techniques involved with improving interpersonal communications, including dialogue. Dialogue, as described by David Bohm, is for the purpose of learning from each other and thus creating shared meaning, which like empathy, connects and unifies those involved. This paper also shares several examples of already existing educational and developmental programs that utilize the teachings of empathy and communication skills. Ultimately, the author feels that the skills learned through empathy and communication are but a vehicle for determining how one should live. Further studies may lead to an investigation on what impels us to care for and ultimately love our fellow beings and thus come closer to embracing the wholeness of life.


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