By RedRover President and CEO, Nicole Forsyth
In our RedRover Readers program, we help children develop awareness of others – both animals and people – through literature.* We believe this is a skill that requires practice and is necessary in order for children to grow up to become kind and compassionate members of their community.
We also believe everyone – adults included – can benefit from further developing their awareness of others. RedRover supports this in all the work that we do to help animals and the people who love them. When people share the experiences and emotions of others, they feel better connected and are more likely to experience a sense of belonging in their home, school, workplace, volunteer work or community. Feeling connected also builds compassion resilience, which is so critical for all of us who feel distress over the suffering of animals and people.
So, how can you build your own awareness? Well, just as with kids, this starts with self-awareness. Naming your own emotional states is critical to understanding others’ emotional states. Tune into when and why you’re feeling sad, angry, anxious or experiencing more complex, mixed emotions and name them. Spend quality time with yourself. Take long walks; write in a journal.
Feeling in tune with your own emotional states? Now share and reach out to understand and connect with others. Here are a few ideas for how to do that:
- Smile and make eye contact with those you meet.
- Spend time listening to your pets, family and friends.
- Acknowledge emotional states when you experience them or see them.
- Start conversations while waiting in line or when you meet someone walking your dog.
- Seek to understand the experiences of those different from you. Reading high-quality literature is a fantastic way to build empathy since a reader naturally takes the perspective of various characters in books.
Practice connecting openly with everyone in your life. And be kind to yourself when this doesn’t always happen. Recognize when you need to go back to spending quality time by yourself or recharge by embracing the unconditional love your companion animals offer.
*For a list of books used in the RedRover Readers program visit RedRover.org/books.