Saving Mr. Banks: Lessons in Empathy

Strategic Management

"I won’t disappoint you."

— Walt Disney says with empathy to Mrs. Travers

I recently watched Saving Mr. Banks. All I could think is how kind everyone was to Mrs. Travers. In spite of her own relentless crabbiness. They didn’t need to understand her ‘ways’ in order to be KIND. Many characters in the movie looked for ways to make it better or to connect. Certainly, Walt Disney was portrayed as a saint!

The audience of the movie had an added benefit of seeing her grow up. Quite an admirable child with a life of hurt and disappointment. Funny, how a little understanding can help us empathize and sympathize.

Watch a clip from Saving Mr. Banks

Anger Management

Saving Mr. Banks reminded me of my mediations training where I learned anger is really the second emotion. Most of us only learn how to express anger because we don’t understand our own feelings. What could that expression of anger really mean? Hurt, fear, sadness, disappointment, abandonment or something else entirely?

It’s important that we try to understand ourselves AND others. It’s helpful for those who love us to read between the lines, when possible. With other’s understanding, we might be able to learn for ourselves how to discover our own deeper emotions. With experience, perhaps, anger won’t be expressed at all (unless warranted).

Also, for true leadership, it’s helpful not to escalate situations. It’s better not to meet anger with anger. This movie showed many instances where silence and patience prevailed. A pause can sometimes lead to better understanding.¬†Also, communication is key. Alternatively, asking the question rather than making a false assumption.

Maintaining Relationships

This example of strategic management can be applied at work or at home. Our success is directly related to how we build, nurture and maintain relationships. Listening leads to empathy which leads to trust which leads to strength in relationships.


I’d love to know how you liked the movie. Perhaps, you’d like to share other movies that had an impact on you? What can you add about listening, empathy and kindness? Please comment on the blog.


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  1. March 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    You are speaking my language! As a long time guide of conscious evolution, I have been trying to educate others for years about anger as a secondary emotion. With it’s “stop it!” energy, I ask, what’s it trying to stop? Hurt? Fear? Sadness…everything you said here and more. Look for the under”lier” and we will be able to deal with anger and it’s very destructive counterpart, shaming, more honestly. Of course we need to be able to say “stop it”, but many times it wouldn’t take anger to do that. Anyway, thanks for the post. I did like the movie and appreciated our view into what made her as she was. If we knew this about all the people we met, empathy would rule and peace would be so much easier!

    • March 31, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you Linda! Love your feedback. Now, I’m going to google ‘conscious evolution.’

  2. April 23, 2014 at 8:53 am

    We all can see films so differently. My take on the film was that Mrs. Travers was desperately trying to maintain creative control of her character Mary Poppins. It’s a constant struggle in Hollywood for women to keep their voices and to me Mrs. Travers was just being hyper-vigilant about it. Disney had so much power to wield, I’m sure it wasn’t easy.

    Interestingly, there is a documentary on the two men in the film, the song-writing brothers, who didn’t speak to each other for over 25 years after they collaborated together.

    • April 26, 2014 at 6:02 am

      Thanks Liz. Yes, I believe we all have filters we view the world through. I’m thrilled to read your perspective. Thanks for sharing!