Ending World Hunger, One Grilled Cheese at a Time

Ending World Hunger, One Grilled Cheese at a Time.

FeelGood is a volunteer youth movement of change makers committed to ending global hunger in our lifetime. Around the country, people are raising money for the end of hunger by running FeelGood Grilled Cheese Deli’s on college campuses. Every penny raised is invested in hunger-ending organizations with a proven track record of success.

Start a chapter: http://www.feelgood.org/start/

Kristin Walter and Talis Apud-Hendricks are passionate about ending world hunger in our lifetimes. After meeting in college in 2004, they co-founded FeelGood as a student organization with the belief that even something as small as a grilled cheese can make a difference. Kristin has been FeelGood’s Executive Director since graduating in 2005 with a Finance Degree. Under her leadership, FeelGood has grown from a single-campus initiative into a vibrant national movement with over 29 chapters and 17 more currently seeded. FeelGood partners with over 1200 student volunteers, impacting the lives of thousands and raising over $1.4 million for the end of hunger. Talis manages the innovation for FeelGood’s education and technology programs. With an M.S. in Innovation from the Monterrey Institute of Technology, she has pioneered an online platform for meaningfully connecting FeelGood’s many student communities and developing their educational and entrepreneurial goals. Before coming to FeelGood, Talis was a professional athlete, qualifying for the Mexican Olympic team in 2008. She has over seven years experience as a consultant in inter cultural management.

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Generation Me: Study Finds College Students Lack Empathy

Are today’s college students narcissists?

A study presented at the recent meeting of the Association for Psychological Science found that, compared with individuals their age 20 or 30 years ago, today’s college students are lacking in empathy. Researchers look at exposure to video games and social media as a possible cause for the rise in narcissism and students’ ability to ‘tune out’ the emotions of others.
A recent study led by Sara Konrath at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research suggests that today’s college kids are significantly less empathetic than their peers in the 1980s and 1990s. With the assistance of U-M graduate student Edward O’Brien and undergraduate Courtney Hsing, Konrath conducted a meta-analysis of 72 different studies examining almost 14,000 American college students between 1979 and 2009.Generation X is often called the ‘Slacker Generation.’ Will the Millennial Generation be known as ‘Generation Me?’

The researchers focused on studies that used the Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), which was designed in 1980 to measure ’empathy,’ or the ‘tendency to react to others’ observed experiences.’ The IRI scores participants on four different areas of interpersonal sensitivity:

  • Empathic concern
  • Perspective taking
  • Fantasy
  • Personal distress

A high score on the IRI indicates ‘increased prosociality and decreased antisociality’ – in other words, the ability to empathize and ‘play well’ with others.

Konrath et al’s literature review found that similar studies conducted over the past decade have indicated that, over time, college students show rising rates of individualism, self-esteem, narcissism and positive self-views. Hypothesizing that increased levels of self-centeredness would correlate with a drop in students’ ability to relate to others, the researchers predicted that IRI scores have decreased over time for college-age individuals.

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The Rise of ‘Me’ and the Fall of ‘Us’

After reviewing data from all 72 IRI studies, the researchers found that their supposition was correct. Overall, today’s college kids are 40% lower in empathy than their peers of 20 or 30 years ago, with the biggest drop occurring after the year 2000. Modern students are significantly less likely to agree with statements like ‘I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me’ or ‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.’
Breaking the results down into the four main areas of interpersonal sensitivity, the researchers found a decline in two areas: Empathic concern and perspective taking. (There was no decrease in fantasy or personal distress.) Although there have been some peaks and plateaus since 1979, there’s a strong downward trend in students’ IRI scores in these areas.

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Data from and graphs modeled after Changes in Dispositional Empathy Over Time in American College Students.

Reflecting on their research, Konrath commented, ‘Many people see the current group of college students – sometimes called ‘Generation Me’ – as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history.’ Her co-author O’Brien added, ‘It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluation of others.’

What is it about modern society that has created a generation of young adults severely lacking in empathy? Although ‘why’ was outside the purview of this study, both Konrath and O’Brien have suggested several potential reasons that they hope to investigate in future research.

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Media May Be Isolating and Desensitizing Modern Students

One factor that Konrath pointed to is contact with media, noting that the average American is exposed to three times more ‘network-related information’ today than they were 30 years ago. Much of the content of modern media is heavily saturated with violence, exposure to which could lead to a drop in empathy. Konrath refers to studies conducted by other researchers at U-M that have shown that exposure to violent media, such as first-person shooter video games, tends to numb people to the pain of others.

O’Brien added that the explosive rise of social media may have also played a role. The casual relationship people have with their online ‘friends’ makes it easy to, as O’Brien phrased it, ‘just tune out’ when users don’t feel like dealing with others’ problems and emotions. As these social media relationships consume more and more of our time, it’s easy for this online behavior to bleed into real life.

O’Brien also identified the ‘hypercompetitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success’ that have arisen from phenomena like reality shows as contributing to ‘a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy.’ Students’ lives have become so focused on promoting themselves that they don’t make the time to empathize with others.

What’s your empathy level? Find out how you compare with the average college student with the University of Michigan’s online empathy quiz.

I Don’t Feel Your Pain: Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy

Why empathy is import at home and work and how to be better at it.
Published on March 7, 2013 by David F. Swink in Threat Management

What is Empathy?

According to emotional intelligence author, Daniel Goleman, empathy is defined as (1) understanding the emotional makeup of people and (2) treating people according to their emotional reactions. Goleman and other emotional intelligence and workplace competency researchers have consistently identified empathy as a core component of emotional intelligence and a powerful predictor of success in many professions. Empathy helps us to develop deep levels of rapport and trust.

Having poor empathy skills can lead to serious consequences. It can lead to conflict born of misunderstanding. Without it we can feel lonely within a relationship. Lack of empathy can cause companies to make catastrophic blunders that alienate their customers or employees and it can even incite violence.

The Importance of Empathy

Recent research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital has shown solid evidence that physician empathy plays an important role in forging strong patient-physician relationships and boosting patient satisfaction as well as patients having better treatment adherence and suffering from fewer major medical errors.

Empathy is also important in the workplace. A study conducted by the Center for Creatively Leadership investigated 6,731 leaders from 38 countries. Their results reveal that empathy is positively related to job performance. The study concluded that managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses.

Our Brains on Empathy

Neuroscientists have recently discovered that humans are wired to experience empathy through multiple systems of mirror neurons in our brains.

Empathy (software)

These mirror neurons reflect back actions that we observe in others causing us to mimic that action in our own brains. When we observe someone in pain or when we are with someone happy, we experience that to a certain extent. These mirror neurons are the primary physiological basis of empathy. They create a neural Wi-Fi that connects us to the feelings of people around us.

Many people seem to be naturally empathetic. Others are not. The good news is that research shows that empathy can be learned. There are however a few potential roadblocks to empathy that must be overcome.

Overcoming Roadblocks to Empathy


Roadblock 1 – Not Paying Attention

Mirror neurons kick in strongest when we observe a person’s emotions. We see facial expressions, eye expressions, body position, and gestures. We may lack motivation to pay attention to a person or we may be too distracted by our own thoughts or by other things around us while we are multi-tasking.

The Solution:

Motivate yourself to be more empathetic by knowing how important empathy is to success at home and work. Put your PDA and computer away and minimize distractions. Learn about and practice active listening.

Fine tune your nonverbal observation skills. Learn about micro-expressions target=”_blank” (small quick facial expressions) and eye reading. Daniel Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence, states that “the more sharply attentive we are, the more keenly we will sense another person’s inner state.”

Watch TV with the volume down and practice your nonverbal interpretation by reading what each character is feeling and talking about. This is best done with subtle dramas, not action movies.


Roadblock 2 – Feeling the emotion of the other person but not knowing how or when to communicate empathetically.

The Solution:

Increase your awareness about your own non-verbal expressions (eyes and micro-expressions). Notice what you are doing nonverbally when you are interacting with others. Ask people that you trust, to give you honest feedback about your non-verbal communication in various situations especially ones that are more emotional.

Notice with whom you have difficulty being empathetic. Examine why.

Learn more about voice tone. Listen to people who are known as empathetic leaders, teachers, friends, politicians, or even TV interviewers. Listen to how they use their voices to express empathy.

Try saying the sentence, “I’m sorry that happened to you,” several different ways with various voice tones. See if you can tell which sounds most empathetic or ask someone else to give you feedback.

Recognize that there are some situations where it may be counterproductive to respond empathetically, such as when a person is sending signals that they don’t want to interact with you or they don’t want to share with you how they are feeling.


Roadblock 3 – Not feeling the same emotion of the other person but knowing intellectually that you need to communicate empathetically. This is known as cognitive empathy.

The Solution:

Know that you can disagree with someone and still understand what they may be feeling and why. This is especially important when someone is having a strong emotion and is asking you to do something that you can’t do.

Sometimes just listening without judgment is enough to convey cognitive empathy. Communicate to the person in an authentic way that you understand what they are experiencing.

Can you fake being empathetic?

Sometimes it may be necessary to act empathetically to achieve a desired outcome even when you feel antagonistic to a person. Eg. hostage negotiators are trained to act empathetically toward the hostage taker in order to establish the rapport necessary to influence him to give up and not hurt anyone. In fact, the negotiator most likely despises a person that would hold a woman and baby as hostages. What is interesting is that after a couple of hours many negotiators actually start to feel some empathy toward the hostage taker as a result of “acting” empathetic. Most of us will never find ourselves in that position, but you may need to fake empathy to influence someone to an important end. Hopefully, you won’t experience that frequently, because there is often a price to pay for being consistently inauthentic.

Empathy is one of the building blocks of social intelligence. Stress, self-absorption, and lack of time can gang up on empathy to kill it. Knowing what your empathy roadblocks are and exploring ways to overcome them can help you develop a tool that is vital to your success at home and work.

Do you believe people can increase their ability to be empathetic?

Have you increased your empathy skills or helped others to do it? How?

What impact do you believe empathy plays in the workplace?

Do you think some people are too empathetic?