What Does The Empathy Symbol Stand For?

The Empathy Symbol stands for 2 “sides” reaching out to each other, and opening up to try to truly understand the other’s experiences and feelings. It could be 2 groups of people: men and women, blacks and whites, Jews and Muslims, fundamentalist Christians and atheists, Israelis and Palestinians, gays and straights, old and young, able-bodied and disabled, immigrants and native-born, and so on; or it could be 2 individuals: spouses, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

The Original Empathy Symbol, created in 1973

People have asked about the origins of the empathy symbol. I was a college student, active in the anti-Vietnam war movement. EmpathyMedallion150wI was contemplating the peace symbol I was wearing, when suddenly the idea for the empathy symbol popped into my head, full-blown. It felt as though it had been given to me, and I have felt spiritually charged to bring it to the world ever since. Deb Ellsworth

Empathy News

Featured Empathy Promoter

Minnesota Council of Churches: Respectful Conversations Project

Conversations about divisive issues can sometimes be emotional, pick-a-side and fight-it-out discussions that leave us feeling worse about the people we disagree with, and sometimes worse about ourselves. But there is a way to talk that feels open, honest and impartial, where you can actually be heard and learn about the people with whom you disagree.

Respectful Conversations are designed not to change minds, but soften hearts.

Respectful Conversations are gaining steam. Since 2012, over 2,000 Minnesotans have participated in over 80 Respectful Conversation on a variety of divisive topics including:

  • The amendment defining marriage
  • Guns in Minnesota
  • Differences between urban and rural government leaders
  • Racial implications of religious art
  • Religious/non-religious dialogue
  • Muslims and Christians on global security
  • Jews and Protestants on Israel/Palestine
  • Divisive internal organizational issues

The results speak for themselves: On average, 70% of participants report that “I have a stronger sense of empathy for those whose viewpoint is different from my own.” Over 95% agree that they felt listened to.

See our previously featured Empathy Promoters.

Using the Empathy Symbol

The empathy symbol is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. You may copy, distribute and transmit the material on this site and the empathy symbol as long as you attribute the work to www.EmpathySymbol.com. You may not use this work for commercial purposes without additional license. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work , without additional license. You may seek additional license to do so by contacting us.

We are seeking partners to help spread the Empathy Symbol, and the value of empathy in our world. If you are interested in creating t-shirts or other clothing, jewelry, coffee mugs, or other items using the empathy symbol, please contact us.

Empathy Tatoos

  • An inspirational symbol indeed. Hopefully I can increase awareness of the importance of this level of consciousness here in Ghana. George Aboagye
  • David G. proudly shows his commitment to empathy.
  • Amanda says, “I love this movement. I am an introverted person by nature and though I consider myself considerate, empathy isn’t second nature for me. That is why I chose to have a permanent reminder that I need to try to see the world through others’ eyes. It’s my feather :)
  • Nils says, “I got my empathy symbol tattoo almost two years ago. the symbol is part of a bigger tattoo …. I also got the symbol on my bicycle . 😉 Greetings from Germany.
  • Kristeena says: I am from San Antonio and got this while visiting Los Angeles. I’m a counselor who works with at risk youth and Empathy is my life.
  • Katie says ” I got this done in August because I wanted to remind myself to be more empathetic and also because I wanted to educate people about empathy and what it’s all about. The empathy symbol is on my pinky. ”
  • Tyler says ” This tattoo reminds me everyday to be more understanding of others and hopefully live in a world where everyone can empathise with each other.”
  • James is proudly displaying his new tattoo that says, “Humility, Empathy, Respect”
  • My name is Fernando and I’m a psychiatrist here in Brazil. I always loved the definition and the discussion about empathy. I also think the whole world would be better if everyone simply started exercising empathy everyday.