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


We will send you FREE up to 5 bumper stickers, 8 peel-off empathy symbols, 4 bookmarks and 3 buttons. Let us know which items you want, and your address. 

Empathy News

Featured Empathy Promoter


UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by [Borba, Michele]

Michele Borba has written a powerful new book about the decline in empathy in our children, and what to do to reverse that. Have you seen all the “selfies” that young people post on social media these days? That’s what the title refers to, and she says it directly relates to the 40% drop in empathy that researchers have seen over the last 3 decades. “Self-absorption kills empathy, the foundation of humanity, and it’s why we must get kids to switch their focus from ‘I, Me, My, Mine’ to ‘We, Us, Our, Ours.'” 

As I read this book, I marked page after page to come back to. It is rich with insights and ideas. Let me share some of Borba’s wisdom here: 

“Above all, remind your child: ‘Just like when you practice guitar, soccer, or your multiplication tables, the more you work at being kind, the kinder you’ll be.'”

“We live in a plugged-in culture. The single best predictor of healthy emotional interaction is a lot of face-to-face communication… Staring at computer screens, texting, tweeting and IMing do not teach kids their emotional ABCs. … The average eight- to eighteen-year-old is plugged into a digital media device about seven hours and 38 minutes a day.”

Borba discusses extensively how parents can foster empathy, and it is clearly parents who are the driving force here. In a study of people who rescued Jews from Nazis, the most determining factor was that their parents instilled in them “a strong identity based on caring values and an ethic of social responsibility.” She cites another study that found “children whose parents used induction–who discussed how a child’s misbehavior made them, the parent, feel–showed higher levels of empathy, perspective taking, and prosocial behaviors than kids whose parents relied heavily on power-assertive discipline such as taking away privileges, or on physical punishments like spanking.”

Borba has tons of practical advice, for both parents and teachers, on how to help kids be more empathetic (something that she says is not well-valued today in our culture of promoting self-esteem and achievement), including reading more, making and modeling kindness as a family and classroom value, helping children learn self-regulation, and giving children more opportunities for open-ended free play with a variety of friends. 

Please read this book. It is important, today more than ever.

See our previously featured Empathy Promoters.




Join the conversation on the Empathy Symbol Facebook Page!

Check out our Facebook page, and Follow and join the conversation. Posts about the value of empathy in our polarized world; how to promote empathy; and especially posts to further our own empathy toward, and understanding of, others.  


T-shirts with the Empathy Symbol

Now you can wear the empathy symbol and show what you stand for! A new clothing maker called U BE THE CHANGE: Clothing with a Conscience, is offering t-shirts with the empathy symbol on them. http://www.ubethechange.net

Empathy shirt front copy


Empathy Tattoos

  • Morgan says: I’ve always been really sensitive to other people’s feelings
  • Alba San Nicolás’ tattoo
  • David G. proudly shows his commitment to empathy.
  • Amanda says, “I love this movement.”
  • Nils says, “I got my empathy symbol tattoo almost two years ago. the symbol is part of a bigger tattoo
  • Kristeena says: . I’m a counselor who works with at risk youth and Empathy is my life.
  • Katie says ”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”
  • Tattoo from Alba San Nicolás
  • Ronda says, “ I talk about this all the time and couldn’t wait to get my tattoo to be able to spread the love. “
  • George Aboagye says: “Hopefully I can increase awareness of the importance of this level of consciousness here in Ghana. “
  • Nathan says, “Thanks for the inspiration.”
  • I got a tattoo of the empathy symbol both to remind myself of a humongous part of me as well as to educate others on empathy.
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    Amber says: Thank you for sharing the symbol for empathy with all of us, this was my first tattoo and I couldn’t have chose anything more meaningful to me! Empathy is key to happiness.
  • Fernando tattoo 1
    From Fernando