Empathic Interpretation: A Unique Approach to Preventing Bullying

Learn about preventing bullying by using a unique tool called empathic interpretation in this special post from an expert in the field.

Empathic Interpretation

Bullying is a serious issue. It causes depression, anxiety, stress, even death among kids and teenagers.  There are many articles that discuss ways parents should handle their kids being bullied, but rarely do we discuss the root of the problem: the bullies themselves.

How you can prevent your kids from bullying other children? We teach our kids something we call “Empathic interpretation”. Empathic interpretation is a tool that can be very useful to better understand the feeling about what is being said. When you are getting a reaction or an argument is brewing, an emotional response is starting to come up for the other person, empathic interpretation can be very useful. It allows you to take a step back and understand more about what is going on for the other person. It’s not just the meaning of the words, but it’s how they’re being said, and what the feeling or being of the other person, that manifests at the time they are saying it.

We tell our children to imagine what the other person may be thinking. Bring them into your mind and you’re really going to make an attempt, or do your best to look at the world through their eyes for a moment. We want them to start to see things through the eyes of another person so that we can gain deeper understanding.

This is similar to empathy but it’s not the same thing. Why is that? When we have empathy for someone, it assumes that we know what’s going on for them because we’ve been there before. Be careful about this – it’s not the same thing. If we have empathy, are we looking at the world through their eyes? Or through our own eyes still? Having empathy for someone is still using our own eyes and filters, our feelings and our behaviors to make a decision or a judgment about what is going on.

Empathic interpretation helps us now to see things through their eyes. It’s like taking their head and place it over top of our own and just being them for a moment. Really trying to understand who they are and what is going on for them at that time. The first thing you want to do when you’re starting to see things through their eyes is to recognize and describe their feelings.


Here are some ways to practice empathic interpretation:

1. Listen Carefully For Clues – People are constantly leaving clues about how they are really feeling.  Their behavior might seem aggressive on the outside but on the inside they could be filled with fear, anxiety, or turmoil.

2. Identify The Fear – Whenever you are witnessing bad behavior, the is almost certainly being driven by fear.  They might appear to be confident and strong on the outside but on the inside their actions are being driven by something they are afraid of.  In the case of bullying, it could be simply being afraid of looking bad or weak in front of other people.

3. Watch Their Body Language – Their words might be saying one thing but their body could suggest something else entirely.  People leave clues with their eye movement, hand gestures, body position, etc.

4. Agree With What They Just Said – By agreeing, justifying, or validating the other persons emotions, it shows that you have respect for what they are feeling. If their intent is to prolong the conflict, agreeing with them helps to diffuse the situation because there is nothing to fight against.  Try not to fuel their fears and their reactions by resisting against what they are saying.

5. Pay Them A Compliment – Aggressive behavior can often be fueled by fear cause by low self-esteem or confidence. Giving them a compliment further demonstrates your respect for them and how they are feeling.  When they realize that you are not a threat to their self-esteem they are much more likely to back down.

About the Author

Charles Murray Anderson has been helping parents improve the relationships with their children, their partners, and themselves using simple yet effective methods that have lasting effects. Hundreds of struggling parents have been able to turn around difficult child behavior immediately with his free online parenting course, webinars, and e-book. To find out how positive discipline can change your relationships, visit Blissful Parenting and Child Behavior Problems Help for more information.


7 thoughts on “Empathic Interpretation: A Unique Approach to Preventing Bullying”

  1. Great post! So many people under-value how important it is for people to feel heard when they are experiencing negative emotions fo any kind. It can do a world of good – literally!

  2. Being bullied as a kid I totally understand this topic as its close to my heart. I agree that Education is the key for both the bully and victum. I think the more we talk about it, the less cool it will be!!

  3. This is an excellent post. Bullying is becoming a huge issues especially online. Most children withdraw and don’t talk to their parents about things going on in their life. Education is key to helping your child stop potential bullies and they are more likely to reach out for help.

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