As a school counselor at a middle school, I find many skills can be useful to adolescents. The most important thing I try to teach my students is empathy.

Empathy is a critical skill that is important for all stages of life. It combats bullying, loneliness, depression, increases community, brings happiness, wins friends and decreases prejudice, racism and inequality. In a time when religiosity and spirituality have taken hits often replaced by Facebook and Twitter, empathy can be a force of good for all. In our society that’s ever more divided between rich and poor, progressive and conservative, we need empathy to bring insight, understanding and dialogue.

Actively try to imagine what others are feeling/thinking. Meditate. Read fiction and identify with the characters. Have a chat with someone with different views and sincerely listen. Next time someone pushes your buttons, rather than react, be proactive and push pause, breathe and see the situation from their perspective.

Jared Buhanan-Decker