Empathy Talk Show
Community Level 1
How to play: Group students in pairs. In each pair, one plays the role of a talk-show host. The other plays the role of the guest on the show. Present each pair with a scenario that allows students to be empathetic. The goal is for the host to elicit an empathetic response by drawing ideas from the guest about some of the experiences, feelings, and attitudes associated with that scenario.
The host interviews the guest for two minutes. After the time expires, call for a break, and invite players to stop, switch roles, and take up a new scenario. The process is repeated: the new roles and topic are used within a two-minute time frame. After both students in each pair have played both roles, give the students a few minutes to reflect with each other about the exercise.
Scenario Reflection Questions:
- How did you feel as the host (interviewer)?
- How was it different from the way people have responded in the past when you shared a difficult issue?
- How did you feel as the guest (interviewee)?
- How was it different from the way you have responded in the past when somebody shared a difficult issue?
Possible scenarios for pairs:
- A student does not do well on a test.
- A girl who heard some gossip appears upset.
- A rumor about you is spreading around the school.
- You were in a fight with your best friend at lunch today.
- You liked your new shoes when you put them on this morning, but somebody dissed them.
- You thought you would make the basketball team, but you got cut.
Plan for Success: It is the guest who is practicing empathy by imagining himself or herself in the specific situation and trying to identify what it would feel like. The host should not give advice, but should try to ask questions that assist the guest in getting in touch with what it might be like to be involved in the given scenario. Hosts can ask questions which probe the details of a feeling.
Because this is a challenging line of questioning, in the beginning interviews will likely be short, composed of perhaps 4 or 5 questions. As students' skills grow, extend the questioning period.
Encourage the hosts not to use "why" questions during the interview process. Often when we ask others to explain why they feel a certain way, we are asking them to rationalize a non-rational experience. This can be confusing and may not forward the empathic experience.
Provide specific scenarios, not abstract generalizations. Before playing, model the game with a student, and ask the rest of the class to watch and listen carefully. Play the role of the host, and model asking questions that clarify what the scenario is and lead the guest to his or her own understanding of what someone might feel in this situation.
Scenario: a student does not do well on a test.
Host: How do you feel about your grade on the test?
Guest: I am disappointed and mad at myself.
Host: What grade did you hope to receive?
Guest: At least a C.
Host: How does it feel when you're mad? What happens inside you?
Guest: I get tense and crabby. Right now, I can't think about anything but that test.
Host: Have you felt this way before?
Guest: Yes-every time I get a bad grade.
Host: What do you do when you feel that way?
Guest: I go for a walk or do something to take my mind off of it.