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Material for discussion

Group assignments on compassion and empathy

These assignments are part of My Equal Life project’s material for reducing inequality. In addition to solo assignments, compassion and empathy can be practiced in a group. Here are few assignments based on interaction and narrative, which can be conducted with the guidance of either a teacher or an educator.




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Practical, interactional practices

I hear you

Course of the practice: The teacher or group leader goes over the steps of the practice with then participants and then puts on calming music. Participants walk around the room, to the beat of the music, focusing on how they’re feeling. As the music stops, they stop moving and pick someone standing close to them. The group leader asks the paired-up participants to face each other and make sure the other person has all their attention. The participants look the other person in the eyes, showing interest but without
expecting anything in return and ask how the other person is doing. They are to genuinely listen to other person and withhold their own opinions and sentiments regarding what they hear. What matters is how the other person thinks, feels and that they feel they’re being heard and understood. That is the key to compassion.

Web of compliments

Objective of the practice: learn to recognize others’ feelings, respect taking turns, experience the sense belonging to a group and achieve mutually set goals. Members of the group must be already acquainted.

Equipment needed: ball of yarn

Course of the practice: All the participants sit in a circle. The teacher or group leader begins by throwing the ball of yearn to someone without letting go of the end of the yarn. As they toss the ball to its recipient, they say something positive about them: something they like or appreciate about the recipient. The one who receives the ball then proceeds to toss the ball to someone else, while holding on to the yarn and in turn says something positive about the one who now has received the ball of yearn. As the ball gets tossed around, the yarn spins a web of compliments.

The practice concludes after everyone has been tossed the ball. The practice is then followed by a discussion on how the participants felt about the compliments they received: how they made them feel and whether they recognized those things about themselves.

Be the other

Objective of the practice: learn to recognize others’ feelings, respect taking turns. To work together as a
group while dealing with differences, similarities and conflicts that might surface; reinforce positive attitudes, cooperation, respect, and tolerance. Practice works best in a small group where the participants are already fairly well acquainted.

Equipment needed: accessories

Course of the practice: Each participant picks an accessory or a piece of clothing they’re currently wearing (jacket, scarf, bag, glasses, gloves, hat etc.). The group leader collects the items in a bag so that everyone sees, which person each of the items belongs to. The accessories are then redistributed to the participants sitting in a circle so that everyone is now in the possession of somebody else’s accessory. They will wear the accessory after which the group leader asks each of them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and think, how they feel. Each participant then takes turns telling what they know about their partner, describes their sentiments, and tells the others about how they’re feeling.

Mountain of conflicts

Objective of the practice: learn to recognize other person’s discomfort while working as a group. To learn to recognize other people’s feelings and seek resolution in a conflict.

Equipment needed: a big shoebox, notes of paper

Course of the practice: Each participant writes (anonymously) down a conflict, where they felt uncomfortable and which they do not wish to experience again.

All the notes anonymously describing the conflicts are then placed in a shoebox. Each participant takes turns in picking up a note, which they then read out loud. Then, one at a time, the group goes over the conflicts, together seeking resolutions to each of the situations to avoid them from recurring.

I have ”your” problem

Objective of the practice: learn to understand other person’s problems.

Equipment needed: piece of paper and a pen

Course of the practice: Each person writes down, in as detailed manner as possible, a conflict they’ve had with another person. At the bottom of the page the participants write their own names.

The papers are then shuffled, and each participant randomly selects a paper that isn’t theirs. After going over the conflict described on the paper they picked on their own, they may, should they feel the need for it, ask for more details from the person who wrote it.

Everyone then proceeds to recount the incident as if it had happened to them. The narrator seeks to relive the incident and can deepen the reconstruction by explaining the feelings and sentiments they felt while it was happening to them. The practice should be carried out slowly and enough time should be set aside for it so that other participants can contribute with their comments towards finding a resolution for the conflict.

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Narrative practices

Defending others

Course of the practice: The teacher or the group leader asks the students to close their eyes, breathe slowly and calm down. Then they will read the following story out loud, after which the students together discuss questions relating to the story.

“Maria, a 5 th grader, was really impressed by a lesson where her teacher talked about how the words we use affect the way we see the world. Now Maria understands, how wrong it is to use words like “mamu”, or “disabled” in a derogatory manner, because it is mean and wrong for the people who are like that. Maria feels uncomfortable every time she hears her friends use these words but is scared to speak against it.
Should Maria say something to her friends? What do you think would be the best solution to the situation?”

Friendship and a deserved reward

Course of the practice: The teacher or the group leader asks the students to close their eyes, breathe slowly and calm down. Then they will read the following story out loud, after which the students together discuss questions relating to the story.

“At the beginning of the school year Kara and Hussein got into a fight during a ball game, after which Sami called Hussein ‘mamu’. Hussein is an immigrant. After the fight Kara agreed with his parents, that he would never again call anyone by that name and made up with Hussein. Kara apologizes to Hussein, and the argument is seemingly put to rest. However, Kara still doesn’t want Hussein to play in his football team and often talks other guys, too, into leaving Hussein last as the teams are divided. At the end of the autumn term Kara’s parents ask him whether he has kept his word. What do you think Kara should answer? Does he
deserve a reward for no longer fighting with Hussein?”

Do I help a friend by “betraying” her?

Course of the practice: The teacher or the group leader asks the students to close their eyes, breathe slowly and calm down. Then they will read the following story out loud, after which the students together discuss questions relating to the story.

“Pirkka is an 8 th grader, whose favourite hobby is gymnastics. Every now and then the coach reminds them
not to eat junk food as it’s not healthy and weight gain is not conducive to success in gymnastics. Pirkka’s best friend Utu has lost a lot of weight over the past year and often skips lunch at school. Utu is excited about the weight loss, but Pirkka is concerned Utu might be on the verge of anorexia. Utu’s parents aren’t bothered with fixed mealtimes and seem to be in denial. More than anything, they seem thrilled with her success in gymnastics. Should Pirkka share her worries with an adult, or would this endanger her friendship
with Utu?”

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Tips for practicing empathy and compassion

Sano hyvästit ennakkoluuloille

On paljon helpompaa asettaa itsesi toisen tilalle, kun et ole arvioinut ja tuominnut kyseistä henkilöä ennalta. Yritä kuunnella ja asettaa itsesi hänen tilanteeseensa, ennen kuin annat itsesi muodostaa hänestä ennakkokäsitystä ja tuomita häntä.

Sinun rytmisi voi olla myös minun rytmini

On ihmisiä, jotka puhuvat tai toimivat erittäin nopeasti. Toiset tarvitsevat kuitenkin enemmän aikaa voidakseen toimia tai ilmaista tunteensa. Onko oikeaa tai väärää tapaa toimia? Voit parantaa empatiaa kunnioittamalla keskustelukumppanisi tapaa ja rytmiä ilmaista itseään. Älä keskeytä tai katkaise häntä, vaan kunnioita hänen hiljaisuuksiaan ja pyri sopeutumaan hänen rytmiinsä. 

Älä syytä

Yritä olla syyttämättä muita tilanteista, jotka heidän on täytynyt elää käydä läpi. Kaikki ihmiset eivät ole yhtä onnekkaita, eikä kaikilla ihmisillä ole samaa kykyä selviytyä tai menestyä. Älä syytä lähimmäistäsi päätöksistä, jotka voivat omasta mielestäsi olla vääriä tai joita he eivät ole uskaltaneet tehdä. Yritä sen sijaan ymmärtää "miksi". Muista, että me kaikki teemme virheitä.

Toimi yhteistyössä

Yhdessä toimimalla empatiakyky paranee. Jos toimit joukkue- tai järjestötoiminnassa tai teet esimerkiksi vapaaehtoistyötä jossakin yhdistyksessä tai kansalaisjärjestössä opit asettamaan itsesi toisen asemaan. Kanssaelämällä toisten voittoja ja tappioita, sekä tiedostamalla muiden tilanteen saat laajemman näkemyksen niin muiden kuin omasta tilanteestasi, ja opit arvostamaan sitä, mitä sinulla on


“Kuvittele, että olet kuplassa, jossa sanoja ei voi kuulla. Näet vain eleitä, katseita, aikomuksia... Anna intuitiolle mahdollisuus ja anna itsesi oppia siitä. Koska olet herkkä ihminen, alat huomata asioita, jotka olivat aiemmin jääneet sinulta huomaamatta. Näet henkilön, joka pyytää apua ja tilanne, jossa ennen kuulit vain vihan sanoja, saa sinut nyt hymyilemään huomatessasi läheisyyden eleitä, jotka ovat huomaamattomia, kun sanat hallitsivat keskustelua ... Kaikki tämä auttaa sinua ymmärtämään toista, ymmärtämään, että tilanne ei koostu vain sitä hallitsevista henkilöistä.

Et ole maailman napa

Empaattisuutta harjoittaa myös se, että pyrimme unohtamaan omat tarpeemme ja halumme, ja katsomaan itseämme ja tarpeitamme ulkopuolelta. Saatamme huomata, ettemme olekaan maailmankaikkeuden keskipiste. Olemme kaikki samanlaisia, kukaan ei ole toista tärkeämpi. Itsekeskeisyydestä luopuminen tekee meistä suvaitsevaisempia ja ymmärtäväisempiä.

Arkinen myötätunto

Astu jokaisena päivänä yhden tapahtuman yhteydessä hetkeksi pois omista kengistäsi ja harjoittele myötätuntoa. Kun asetat itsesi jonkun toisen kenkiin joka päivä, tulee myötätunnosta osa jokapäiväistä toimintaasi ja myötätunto on lopulta yhtä arkista ja vaivatonta kuin hymyily.

Tunteet sanojen taustalla

Kun joku kertoo sinulle jotain ja olet kuunnellut hänen viestinsä, palaa siihen uudelleen tunteiden tasolla. Palauta mieleesi jokainen yksityiskohta ja nimeä niihin liittyvät tunteet. Tämä auttaa sinua tuntemaan itsesi paremmin ja samalla autat keskustelukumppaniasi katsomaan sanojen ja tapahtumien taakse. Sen tunnistaminen, miten sanat herättävät erilaisia tunteita auttaa sinua myös kehittämään myötätunnon kykyäsi.

Viljele optimistisuutta

Yksi empaattisten ihmisten ominaisuuksista on, että he ovat yleensä hyvin positiivisia, optimistisia ja luovat hyvän ilmapiirin ympärilleen. Jos haluat parantaa myötätunnon kykyäsi niin pyri pysymään kaukana pessimismistä ja negatiivisuudesta.

Kehitä kiitollisuudenkykyjäsi

Kiitollisuus antaa meille voimaa. Kiitollisuus siitä mitä meillä on, oman tilanteemme ja itsemme arvostaminen kehittää myötätuntoa ja armollisuutta niin itseä kuin muita kohtaan.

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