As diversity increases and our changing socioeconomic landscape continues to take shape, the need for teachers to be able to empathize with students, and for parents with their children, especially those from different socioeconomic backgrounds also increases (Farstad Peck, Maude & Brotherson, 2014).
Empathy is an individual’s capacity to understand the behaviour of others, to experience their feelings, and to express that understanding to them (Lam et al., 2011: 162; Rogers, 1959). In other words, empathy has a coherent dimension, that involves the ability to feel actual matters from the perspective of others and an affective dimension that interrelates sharing other people’s emotions (Boele et al., 2019: 1034; Ornaghi, Brockmeier & Grazzani, 2014: 26).
Empathic expression with a partner enhances relationship satisfaction (Long, Carter, Nakamoto & Kalso, 1999; Ridley, Jorgensen Morgan & Avery, 1982).
Three factors are considered to be important in students-teachers and children-parents relationships Cooper (2011): a) authenticity, b) genuineness, and c) respect for the other.
Authenticity is a way of teaching that can (and, in many cases, must) release the other’ s ‘true’ self and give them the message that any beliefs or inclinations are morally acceptable, as long as they listen to their ‘inner voice’ (Bialystok & Kukar, 2018: 27).
Genuineness is the person’s willingness to share the experience with the other to be able to admit and accept his/her own vulnerability and to be open for the experience to be touched and influenced by the other (Gaylin, 1996).
The third condition is respect for the other. According to Carl Rogers (1959), unconditional positive regard is non-possessive warmth and respect for the person for its uniqueness and for its individuality.