Empathy Is a Verb: My TEDx Talk to Start An UnSelfie Revolution

by | Aug 4, 2016 | Bullying and Cyberbullying, Character and Moral Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence, Empathy and Kindness, Uncategorized

Join the #UnSelfie Revolution to Raise Kids with Empathy, Moral Conviction and Courage To Make a Better World

We’ve all had “I’ll never forget” moments: mine was April 20, 1999 watching the Columbine High School massacre on TV.  I’m an educational psychologist. I’d spoken to parents at Littleton. I told my husband that’s where we should raise our three sons. I knew there was a seismic shift happening in our children’s culture. And so over the next years I put my energy into studying youth violence. I wrote a bill on how to prevent school shootings, and I’d just delivered my recommendations to the assembly when I had another “I’ll never forget moment”: A teen walked by me-while holding up his jeans so they wouldn’t fall-and yelled: “Great speech!” What could this kid possibly like about what I said? His response?

“All that stuff about teaching kids how to care” he said. “That’s what kids need to learn ya know: the goodness stuff. It would have kept my brother out of jail.”

I realized that teen was so right. Caring about others isn’t innate, but must be learned and must be nurtured. His one comment switched my research. And so I started studying the other stuff: what does create goodness? My journey took over seventeen years. I interviewed top neuroscientists, educators, psychologists as well as hundreds of children around the world. And I visited sites of extraordinary horror: the Killing Fields, Dachau, Rwanda, Auschwitz, Armenia to witness the antithesis of goodness-evil. I earned one million airline miles, but I found what instills goodness.

The answer to goodness is Empathy ~ the immensely human capacity that allows us to feel with another.

How would empathy benefit us? Let me count the ways. Science shows empathy is a key predictor of our happiness and success. It strengthens our relationships and opens trust with others. It inspires our courage and compassion to become contributing citizens. It’s also the best antidote to bullying and racism, and hope for humanity. It’s also why I’m worried: we have a serious Empathy Deficit.

Today’s teens are 40 percent lower in empathy than three decades ago. Their narcissism rates have increased 58 percent in the same period. I call it the “Selfie Syndrome.” And self-absorption kills empathy. We need to raise Unselfies, not selfies.

It’s my contention that empathy is anything but soft and fluffy – but an essential trait for our brave new world.  It’s why I believe that developing empathy must be put front and center on our parenting and educational agendas. At stake if we don’t? Everything we hope for in our world and our children’s future.

So how do we nurture our human side? How do we raise Unselfies or children who think “WE, not ME”?

The answer that took me two decades of research is now in my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed In Our All About Me World.

UnSelfie was launched on the TODAY show this June and is now available in hard copy, digital and audio form. It has over 300 practical, proven ways we can nurture empathy in our children. It’s my hope that the book will start an #UnSelfieRevolution so we raise a generation of strong, compassionate, capable children with caring hearts as well as strong mind.

“Empathy Is a Verb” was title of a TEDx talk I delivered this May at Traverse City to initiate my #UnSelfieRevolution and turn the Empathy Crisis around. I hope you join me in this initiative in hopes of creating a better world for our children.

Michele Borba, Ed.Dunselfie.

My latest book is UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World with proven answers we can  use to raise good people.I hope you join me in starting an #UnSelfieRevolution to put empathy, kindness, caring, and courage back on our child-rearing agendas.

Follow me on twitter @micheleborba and read my blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check where I’ll give you proven practices to produce a generation of strong, caring kids.