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Ionbhá: The Empathy Book for Ireland

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From RTÉ Radio 1's Brendan O'Connor Show, actor Cillian Murphy and Prof Pat Dolan talk about their 10 years working together on youth research and empathy projects and their new book Ionbhá, The Empathy Book for Ireland Mar is eol go maith, ní hionann éisteacht agus éisteacht; agus chun tuiscint dhomhain a bhaint amach ar a bhfuil á rá ag duine linn, chomh maith le cumarsáid rathúil, is gá teagmháil iomlán a dhéanamh leis an duine eile, lena riachtanais agus lena chur chuige ar leith. There are many corollaries of this in modern life, he says, such as the solipsistic world of social media, the absence of time for others, the echo chamber of the media and politics. “I think for young people, social media is a very competitive and very combative environment. I think it’s very hard to be empathetic towards something that you can’t see or connect with,” he says.

First students learn about what empathy is and why it is important. Students then spend a few weeks practising their empathy skills. Next, they spend time discussing barriers to empathy and brainstorming on how to overcome them. Finally, the programme culminates with students putting empathy into action in a project of their own choosing. Chomh maith le cuidiú linn sa ghné shóisialta le daoine eile, éisteacht ionbhá freisin imríonn sé tionchar dearfach orainn féin agus cabhraíonn sé linn feabhas a chur ar réimse leathan gnéithe pearsanta, mothúchánacha agus iompraíochta, ós rud é go dtugann sé faisnéis dúinn faoin mbealach a dhéileálann daoine eile lena gcuid mothúchán, lena gcuid fadhbanna agus lena gcuid tionscadal agus seachmaill.

Conas a chuidíonn éisteacht ionbhách lenár gcreideamh a cheistiú?

The way civic society is going — not just in this country, but globally — we’re going to be dependent on empathy. Take climate challenge or social justice of any shape or form... it’s vital — Prof Pat Dolan

Tá sé seo amhlaidh toisc go gceadaíonn sé dúinn muid féin a chur in áit an duine eile, luach a chur ar bhealaí eile smaointeoireachta agus bealaí malartacha chun fadhbanna agus riachtanais a cheapadh agus, sa deireadh, bealaí nua chun an domhan a léirmhíniú. Is pointe tosaigh an-mhaith é seo chun ár bhfís ar réaltacht a shaibhriú, botúin a cheartú agus súil a chaitheamh ar an mbealach is féidir le daoine eile freagairt i gcásanna áirithe. The results shows the programme is increasing “pro-social behaviour”, or the willingness to do good, and boosting young people’s level of “cognitive empathy” (they were better able to understand other people’s perspectives) and affective empathy (they were more willing to share the emotions/feelings of others).We need an empathy revolution,” says Murphy. “We’d like to get people talking about it, to get it into the vernacular, for it become a topic of conversation, and for people to become interested in it.”

Ionbhá: The Empathy Book for Ireland is' edited by Pat Dolan, Cillian Murphy, Gillian Browne and Mark Brennan, and comprises over 80 contributions from mostly well-known Irish names on empathy. It is published by Mercier Press on October 6. There is actual data to prove that you can teach it as a subject and kids can learn it. And then when you study the kids that have learned it, they are more empathetic, and it reduces all the stuff that we don’t like in schools and things that we’re trying to steer our kids away from.

Conas a chuidíonn éisteacht ionbhá linn feabhas a chur ar dhaoine?

Chocolate and Climate Change: Investigating Gender Dynamics of Small-Scale Cacao Producers in Lampung and South Sulawesi Indonesia By understanding, feeling and identifying my emotions I then began to calmly and safely identify the emotions of others. I’d do it mindfully. The wrinkle of a smile. The raise of an eyebrow in surprise. The furrow of disappointment. The forced teethy smile that masks discomfort. I didn’t view other people through the threatening lens of fear that a state of anxiety demands.” Charlotte Silke and Bernadine Brady, academics at University of Galway’s Unesco Child and Family Centre That’s where I discovered drama. We did a drama module with Pat Kiernan from Corcadorca. That year for me was hugely formative. We took a pause [between exam years] which was brilliant. I think transition year — both my boys just went through it — is fantastic. It shouldn’t be like, junior cycle, senior cycle, third level, straight into exams again. I think that’s insane,” he says.

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