What Does The Empathy Symbol Stand For?

The Empathy Symbol stands for two “sides” reaching out to each other, and opening up to try to truly understand the other’s experiences and feelings. It could be two 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 two 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. I 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

Featured Empathy Promoter

The Empathy Museum is based in London. As the BBC explained, “The museum was founded by cultural thinker Roman Krznaric. For him, empathy is a more popular concept today than at any time in the last century. But we live in a hyperindividualistic world and, as a result, our empathic capacities are rapidly being eroded. It’s this failure to appreciate other people’s viewpoints, experiences and feelings which is, he argues, at the root of prejudice, conflict and inequality. The Empathy Museum is dedicated to developing the skill of empathising with the aim of revolutionising relationships.”

Shipping container decorated to look like a giant shoebox, with a queue of people at its doors.  Empathy Museum’s exhibits are conceived by Clare Patey, an award-winning artist and curator who devises participatory installations, performances and exhibitions, aided by a team of creative people. The Empathy Museum offer traveling exhibits, as well as a podcast. They are most known for the exhibit “A Mile in My Shoes.” Participants literally put on the shoes of other people, then walk in them while listening on headphones to that person tell their story. This exhibit has traveled to Australia, Belgium, Brazil, the U.S. and other nations. If you can’t experience it in person, you are also encouraged to listen to the podcast, preferably while walking, in which a different person tells his or her story each time.

Learn more in this YouTube video about the Empathy Museum.

And read this in-depth BBC article about empathy, which ends with a look at the Empathy Museum: “Amongst the unusual exhibitions will be a human library, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation – maybe a Sikh teenager, an unhappy investment banker or a gay father. In other words, the kind of people you may not get to meet in everyday life. Empathy is the cornerstone of healthy human relationships. As the psychologist and inventor of emotional intelligence Daniel Goleman puts it, without empathy a person is ’emotionally tone deaf’.

It’s clear that with a little effort nearly everyone can put more of their empathic potential to use. So try slipping on your empathy shoes and make an adventure of looking at the world through the eyes of others.”


To see previous Empathy Promoters, click here. 


Free download: B & W bookmarks for kids to color, with a simple, beautiful description of empathy. Whether you are a teacher, a caregiver or a parent, you can easily download a sheet of eight bookmarks and print them on cardstock. They would make lovely gifts for children to share with others. Find them on the Materials page.

Check out our new page, Empathy Symbol in Action! See how the empathy symbol is being used in many ways, from artwork to clothing to logos to inclusion in books to more. There are so many ways to express and share the core value of empathy!

New Products! 

Empathy Symbol Copper Necklace

Show everyone your commitment to a more empathetic world. We are excited to be offering empathy symbol necklaces, with a copper symbol on a soft cord. Each pendant is individually made from a mold created from the original empathy symbol. Since each one is hand-crafted, they will vary slightly. We are also now offering 1.5″ buttons and three-inch sew-on patches. You can also get the image for you to use for free however you might like.

Empathy News

For more information about the empathy movement, read Empathy Magazine –an online collection of the latest news about empathy from around the world. Curated by Edwin Rutsch

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.

Using the Empathy Symbol

empathy symbol german art

A German artist named Caro created this piece of art using the empathy symbol. Others are incorporating the empathy symbol into their logos (with our permission obtained.) We are looking for artists and craftspeople to help spread the value of empathy via items they create–jewelry, mugs, phone case covers… Please see below for how to obtain our permission to do so, under the Creative Commons License.

Here’s how you can use the Empathy Symbol

Use of Empathy Symbol is subject to a Creative Commons License. Find out more.