1. Welcome the participants and explain that they will work together to explore the concepts of self-awareness, empathy and sympathy.

2. Start the activity by explaining what self-awareness is:

“Self-awareness is when someone is in touch with and recognizes who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they like or dislike. Being self-aware helps you to recognize when you feel stressed or are under too much pressure. It is also needed for effective communication and interpersonal relationships, and is important for developing sympathy and empathy for others. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be at accepting who you are, or at making changes to improve who you are.”

3. Give each participant a copy of the worksheet on self-awareness, and tell them they can take this home with them to complete on their own. It is for their private use and is a reflection tool to explore how self-aware they are.

4. Now give the participants pens and paper, and ask them to discuss in groups of four, what the terms empathy and sympathy mean. Ask them to make clear what the difference is between the two terms. Explain that they will share these definitions in plenary in a few minutes.

5. While the participants are discussing in their groups, make two columns headed ‘empathy’ and ‘sympathy’ on a flipchart paper or on a chalkboard.

6. After a few minutes, ask the groups to share their definitions. As they share them, write the keywords from their definitions on the flipchart or chalkboard.

7. When everyone has shared their definitions, summarise what the terms mean, making clear what the difference is between the two terms. You can use the following to help you:

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another because of having had a similar experience or being able to imagine what it is like to be in that situation. It is sometimes referred to as being able to “put yourself into another person’s shoes.”

Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ another person. When the feelings or emotions of another person are deeply understood and appreciated by another person. It also can mean being affected by feelings or emotions. The essence of sympathy is that one has a strong concern for another person. Sympathy is often understood as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.

8. Now ask the participants to give examples of where they have felt empathy or sympathy, or both, for someone else. Discuss why they think it is important to have empathy and sympathy for other people. If they do not mention it, you can add the following points to the discussions:

   •   Having empathy and feeling sympathy for others is important in human interaction, as it is an expression of care and concern.
   •   Empathy and sympathy both motivate us to help other people.

9. Conclude the activity by saying:

“Being aware of yourself, who you are, what is important to you and what your values are affects your relationships with other people. Being self-aware also enables you to recognize how other people feel, especially when they are going through difficult times. Having empathy and feeling sympathy for others motivates our helping behaviour, and is an important aspect of human interaction.”

WORKSHEET: Self-awareness 

This worksheet contains a number of personal questions. The aim of the worksheet is for you to reflect on how self-aware you are. It is for your private use only and you will not be asked to share the answers, so please answer the questions as honestly as possible.



1. What are your strengths?




2. What are your weaknesses?




3. How do your friends describe you?




4. Do you agree with these descriptions? If not, what are the ways you would describe yourself?



5. What types of activities did you enjoy when you were a child?




6. What motivates you in your daily life?



7. What are your dreams for the future?



8. What do you fear most in your life?




9. What things or situations make you feel stressed?




10. How do you respond to feelings of stress?