Empathy as cultural competence in its cognitive, caring and social dimension, consists of an intentional process that consents to be in a deep relation with the other without losing your own identity and the borders between him/her and yourself. To do so, it is necessary to know how to identify and to recognize your own emotions for then to be able to recognize them in the other people; if we don't know ourselves and if we don't even know how to distinguish our emotions we will never succeed in understanding those from others.
The discourse on empathy has been deepened for a long time within the field of psychology, sociology and psychotherapy, so much that the experts have come to define different typologies of empathy, such as positive and negative empathy in comparison to the ability to share or no other people's joy. There are though other typologies of empathy which belong to the studies of intercultural empathy:
- Behavioral empathy: to understand the behaviors of a different culture and their causes, to understand the reason of that behavior and the chains of correlated behaviors;
- Emotional empathy: to succeed in perceiving the emotions lived by the others, also in different cultures from your own;
- Relational empathy: to understand the map of the relationships of the subject and his/her affective values in the culture of affiliation;
- Cognitive empathy: to understand the active cognitive prototypes in a given moment of the time in a specific culture, the beliefs it is composed of, the values, the ideologies, the mental structures that the culturally different subjects possess and to which they cling on.
In the scholastic context, in order to improve the relationships between the pupils and the teachers, as well as between students themselves, perhaps we should follow the Danish example to introduce the empathy as academic subject at school. In this way each student would be able to better understand the others and their emotions. If this were the case, the same scholastic system and the methods of teaching would change and find quite different bases. For instance, nowadays not all teachers are able to show empathy towards their students and at the same time different difficulties of relationship exist among kids who attend the school creating a mix of aspects that could easily trigger the phenomenon of bullying.
The use and sharing of empathy is to be considered a fundamental condition to developing the communication skills and interaction in the situation of difference, socio-cultural disadvantage or disability. A good practice to be mentioned is the ‘Didactic of Emotions’* which promotes the building of empathy and mutual sharing climate in the class through a series of exercises and strategies led by the teacher/educator in the daily school life. Tested and standardized in Italian schools, the Didactic of Emotions was firstly a European project funded under the Erasmus+, and is nowadays running also in some schools from Palermo, Sicily.
*Source: U. Mariani, R. Schiralli "Intelligenza emotiva a scuola.Percorso formativo per l'intervento con gli alunni" Le Guide. Erickson - https://www.erickson.it