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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Russell Kolts


Russell Kolts & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

Russell Kolts is a professor in psychology at Eastern Washington University. His current research and professional work is focused upon Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) and the application of CFT in working with emotional difficulties, particularly anger and attachment disturbances.

Russell is author of 'The Compassionate Mind Approach to Managing Your Anger.' The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger will show you how to take responsibility for your anger and your life by cultivating a new strength: the power of compassion. 


Russell hosts the website, which is the online hub of the Inland Northwest Compassionate Mind Center. The center is committed to the development and application of evidence-based practices utilizing the purposeful cultivation of compassion and mindfulness to promote wellbeing.
Sub Conference: Science




Russell Kolts & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion



  • 00:00 Introduction (transcription pending)

  • (Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)

How to build a culture of empathy?

1. Increase awareness of how the way we do things in our culture (attempting go motivate others and ourselves by activating a sense of threat) actively obstructs empathy

2. Actively work to change #1, particularly in politics and advertising.

3. Help people cultivate more connectedness with others

4. Help people cultivate awareness of how their emotions work, and how to soothe selves when they are in a state of threat

5. Actively teach empathy skills in schools, in fun, team-building ways (some of this is already being done)

6. Model it from the top - politicians, teachers, corporate heads, etc...

7. Change the way we do school evaluation (through testing that has the potential to stress/create sense of threat in the entire system) (example of more specific intervention that would speak to number 2).

You'll see a common thread in the above, which is very consistent with CFT. From our perspective, empathy and compassion are much more likely to occur in certain conditions (when we feel safe and connected),
 and quite unlikely to occur in other conditions (when we are feeling threatened or are caught up in the blind pursuit of a goal).

This is complicated by the way evolution designed our brains - which very much prioritize detecting and responding to threats. So it's complicated, but the good news is that there are some really powerful things we can do, both culturally and in terms of personal practice, to make empathy and compassion more possible, and much more likely.