The Empathy Map

Empathy is a critical skill for kids to develop and one of the hallmarks of emotional healing as detailed in the Grand Feelings Exit Plan (Signs of Emotional Health). The Empathy Map is a great way to get kids thinking about and understanding empathy for others. It is adapted from a business setting where it is used to understand clients but works great with kids.

Here’s What You Need

  • A large sheet of paper or a board.
  • Markers.
  • Sticky notes.
  • Pen/Pencil

Here’s How To Set Up the Empathy Map (as shown above)

  1. Title the page “Empathy Map.”
  2. Underneath the title write the word “Issue”
  3. Draw a large box taking up the page underneath.
  4. In the middle of the box, draw a face or a picture of a person.
  5. Draw a large circle around the person leaving pace between the circle and the box as well as the circle and the drawing of the face/person.
  6. Draw six straight(ish) lines out from the picture in the middle of the circle to the box leaving six spaces inside and outside the circle.
  7. Label the six spaces (either inside or outside the circle) as follows: Hearing, Thinking, Seeing, Saying, Doing and Feeling.
  8. Label the area inside the circle “Our Expectations” and outside the circle “Reality.”

How to Use the Empathy Map

  1. Start by determining the situation or issue. Write it on a post-it note and stick it next to the word issue. The issue can be something the young person is currently going through or a hypothetical situation. In this instance, our issue for the map show was “My best friend yelled at me and called me a jerk!”
  2. Starting on the inside of the circle, use post-it notes to identify what we might hear, think, see, say and do when faced for the issue. In this example, we heard “Mean words,” “Rumors” and a bad tone. We felt “Anger,” “Resentment” and “Jealousy.” We could react saying things like “Go Away” or a “I hate you.” In this part of the exercise, the point it to identify actual thoughts, actions and feelings (expressed or unexpressed). There are no right answers and we are not searching for how we should respond.
  3. Once the inside of the circle is done, work through the outside going through each of the six sections again and focusing on what the person identified in the issue might be hearing, thinking, seeing, saying, doing and feeling. In this example, we wondered if maybe our friend was hearing her “Dad yell at her” and taking that out on us. Perhaps she was feeling “Emptiness” or “Hurt.” perhaps what she is trying to say is “Can someone listen to me,” “Please talk to me,” or “Please love me.”
  4. As you talk through the items on the outside of the circle, ask the child(ren) how thinking about what the person is going through or experiencing changes their outlook on the situation and how it might change how they react.

For more awesome resources for learning about and dealing with emotions, please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Emotions Help Center.

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Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families. Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids' other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son's soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship). You can reach Wayne at