Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

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International Online Conference on:
How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy?
Permanently Ongoing

Sub Conference:  Empathy in the Justice and Legal System

This is the beginning sub conference page for exploring how to build a culture of empathy in the justice, law and legal field.  How can restorative justice, reparative justice, transformative justice and restorative empathy systems be fostered?

Below are some resource links, initial interviews and panels on this topic. Stay tuned as we interview more people in the field of law and hold panel discussions. We want to hear from you if you have expertise in this field.

Empathy and Justice Magazine
International News about Empathy, Justice, Restorative Justice, Mediation and the Law.  Curated and organized into informative and attractive news pages.
Sample Articles:

The Power of Empathy in Conflict Resolution
Empathy has a profound ability to transform the way in which we resolve and understand conflicts. Empathy enables individuals to open their hearts and minds to not only see and understand the world from the perspective of others, but also to act in a way that is more likely to lead to a peaceful solution.

Restorative Justice provides a context to increase empathy.
Empathy. A crucial emotional response to those around us. We are hard-wired to connect with others. From the book Born for Love which is about the: empathy that allows us to make social connections, and the power of human relationships to both heal and harm.

Senate Debate on Empathy and the Supreme Court
2009-05-01 - Barack Obama on David Souter Retirement - Senate Debate on Empathy (4 of 90)

This page has transcripts and video from the Senate debate on empathy. The debate was started by Barack Obama saying that empathy was one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court Justice. The debate heated up with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and continued with the selection of District/Circuit Court Judges as well as the nomination of Elena Kagan. This debate continues. I've selected and organized hundreds of video clips and transcripts from this Senate debate on empathy.

One of our projects will be to put together panel discussions to address some of the misunderstandings expressed by Senators about the nature of empathy.  We will have panelists from all fields of study to systemically reply to the misunderstandings, criticisms and attacks on the role of empathy in the judicial system.

Effective Empathic Listening
Douglas E. Noll

Doug Noll has been in professional practice for over 40 years. For the past 20 years, he has dedicated himself to understanding the emotional and biological origins of human conflict. With this knowledge, he has developed a set of empathic listening skills that "work the first time, every time". He is author of, De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less Paperback.


Doug says: "Empathic leadership development is essential for teachers, educators, administrators, and school board members. Without the ability to connect with students and parents quickly and effectively, conflict escalates.

Empathic leadership is a skill comprised of three elements:

  1. The ability to ignore the words, focus on emotions, and reflect those emotions back

  2. The ability to problem-solve specific issues once calm is restored

  3. The ability to create a learning environment that is emotionally safe"

Lawyers for Empathy

Transforming Law as a Healing Profession
Pauline H. Tesler

 Pauline Tesler is a a pioneer in interdisciplinary collaborative legal practice. She is founding director of the Integrative Law Institute, author of Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution Without Litigation.  Her workshops and writings catalyzed an international movement called “Collaborative Law” that is changing the face of family law in 28 nations.  In this dialogue we talk about the role of empathy in transforming law into a healing and collaborative profession.

"We believe that law can be a healing profession, and that lawyers can be peacemakers. At the Integrative Law Institute, our mission is to bring insights and tools to lawyers so that they have what they need to return the practice of law to this original purpose: helping people reach resolution that heals the conflict."

Lawyers for Empathy


How Empathy Can Close the Gap Created by Crime
Pete Wallis and Edwin Rutsch

 Pete Wallis is the senior practitioner in restorative justice for Oxfordshire Youth Offending Service. He has facilitated hundreds of restorative meetings and written or co-authored several books and articles on the subject including, Understanding Restorative Justice: How Empathy Can Close the Gap Created by Crime and What Have I Done?: A Victim Empathy Programme for Young PeopleIn 2011 he set up a charity to support young crime victims, and he is a consultant for the new Restorative Services Quality Mark.



"Victim empathy work helps them to acknowledge that it is real people that they have harmed. Empathy engenders a sense of shared experience, and an identification with and understanding of the other person's situation, feelings and motives. Empathy has the potential to profoundly change our interactions with one another."


 Sub Conference: Justice

Empathy in Conflict Intervention
Richard Bowers and Nelle Moffett interviewed by Edwin Rutsch

Richard Bowers introduces himself by saying,  In addition to my private practice, I am a guest lecturer at Antioch University Midwest's Integral Studies in Conflict & Leadership program, I serve as a Ventura County Small Claims Court mediation supervisor through the Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement, and I mediate cases through the Los Angeles and Ventura County Superior Courts. My private practice, working with Nelle Moffett, involves workshops, practice groups, and working with individuals and couples focusing on communication and conflict coaching.

Nelle and I co-authored Empathy in Conflict Intervention: The Key to Successful NVC Mediation. This book brings together theories from psychology, conflict resolution, and sociology to explore the effectiveness of empathy in mediation.

From the book:
"What empathy provides for the mediator is a way to create an unbiased connection with each client without reverting to a cold aloofness that is sometimes taught in mediation training."

The Intervention of the Sabine Women - Jacques-Louis David (wikipedia)

"The impact of mediator empathy towards both parties may provide the support needed for successful mediation even when there is no ongoing relationship between the parties.  A better understanding of the power of empathy could lead to increased usage of empathy in mediation. This increased usage of empathy could increase perspective-taking by the parties within mediations, leading to increased connection, collaboration, or satisfaction with the mediation process for both mediators and disputants. "

Sub Conference: Justice

 In Defense of Empathy and Justice
John Gibbs and Edwin Rutsch

John Gibbs is a professor of developmental psychology at The Ohio State University and the author of Moral Development and Reality: Beyond the Theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt. John says, my interests pertain to cross-cultural sociomoral development, parental socialization, empathy, prosocial behavior, and antisocial behavior. I have, with students and colleagues, developed assessment measures of moral judgment, moral identity, social perspective-taking, self-serving cognitive distortions, and social skills. Together with
Martin Hoffman he wrote an article,
Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice.


Fresco of the Judgment of Solomon, (Wikipedia)


Hillary Rodham Clinton had a point when she recently urged:
"The most important thing each of us can do... is to try even harder to see the world through our neighbors' eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes, to share their pain and their hopes and their dreams"....

we emphasize that empathy and justice are co-primary or mutual. If justice serves empathy, the reverse is certainly also true ...

Morality is most objective and compelling when justice and empathy align. That is, the moral prescription to act is strongest when victims are both wronged and harmed.


 Sub Conference: Justice

Empathy Connects, Transforms and Removes the Blocks to Action!
Dominic Barter

Dominic Barter plays with dialogue and partnership, focusing primarily in the fields of education, justice, culture and social change. In the mid-90s he collaborated in the development of Restorative Circles, a community-based and -owned practice for dynamic engagement with conflict that grew from conversations with residents in gang-controlled shantytown favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

He adapted the practice for the Brazilian Ministry of Justice's award-winning national projects in Restorative Justice and supports its application in a further 25 countries. In recent years he has supervised the mediation program for the Police Pacification Units in Rio, served as invited professor at the Standing Group for Consensual Methods of Conflict Resolution, at the High Court of Rio, with a focus on school mediation and bullying, and focused on the development of restorative community. Currently Dominic directs the Dialogue Restoration project for the State Education Department of Rio de Janeiro and partners with the Centre for the Study of Public Security and Citizenship at Candido Mendes University.

"There's something really unique about empathy,
 that it clears the things that are blocking action,
and that it connects both inside and
to other people in a way that

is transformative."

As a long time student and colleague of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg Dominic serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, shares Nonviolent Communication throughout Brazil and internationally, and supports its learning in project-based, community contexts. He has been active in the street movements and occupations in Rio in recent years. He’s the very happy dad of an amazing 14 year old.   You can find out more about Restorative Circles at

La danse -  Henri Matisse (Wikipedia)

Sub Conference: Justice

Johan Galtung: How to Build a Culture of Empathy & Peace

Johan Galtung is the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies. He founded the Peace Research Institute Oslo in 1959 and is referred to as the "father of peace studies".

Johan has also mediated in over 150 conflicts between states and nations. He has published over 100 books, including 'Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization' and "The Fall of the U.S. Empire - And Then What?” 


He co-founded TRANSCEND International which has as its mission: "To bring about a more peaceful world by using action, education/training, dissemination and research to transform conflicts nonviolently, with empathy and creativity, for acceptable and sustainable outcomes."

He has a quote which I find succinctly sums up the relationship between empathy and peace.
 “By peace we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively — a never-ending process”

Sub Conference: Justice

Four Week Series: Pattie Porter (The Texas Conflict Coach) Interviews Edwin Rutsch
    1. What Does Empathy Got To Do With It?  -  Listen to Podcast

 For many of us engaged in conflict or embroiled in a dispute, it can be very difficult to muster up empathy and compassion for the other side.  The longer the conflict goes unresolved it seems the less empathy we have for them as a human being. In this first of our four episode series–Conflict and Empathy: Where Has Empathy and Compassion Gone?– we will introduce the “wheel of empathy” and the “feel of empathy” as

defined by Edwin Rutsch, Founder of a global empathy movement called The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy.  We will also discuss how compassion intertwines with empathy and set the foundation for how you build empathy.


  • Let’s start by sharing with listeners about how you got started in this work of building a culture of empathy and creating the Center.

  • Given that this is the first episode in our series Conflict and Empathy, let’s set the stage and define some of these concepts.

    • What exactly is empathy and the intention behind it?

    • How is empathy different from sympathy?

    • How does compassion intertwine with empathy?

  • We said that we would introduce two concepts…the “wheel of empathy” and the “feel of empathy.” What is important to know about these concepts?

  •  How do these wheels tie into the Empathy Circles you host through Google Hangouts?

Sub Conference: Justice

Panel 23 - The Role of Empathy in Crime, Policing and Justice
Chad Posick
Joe Brummer
Michael Rocque
Edwin Rutsch
The role of empathy in policing, both empathy for and by the police, is gaining attention from criminal justice researchers and practitioners. While research on the effectiveness and importance of empathy in policing is limited, the existing research indicates that empathy increases perceptions of legitimacy and trust in the police.
This panel discusses a range of issues related to the role of empathy in criminal behavior, punishment, and policing with a specific emphasis on training police on how to incorporate empathy into their work.
Sub Conference: Justice

 Chad Posick: How to Build a Culture of Empathy in Criminal Justice System

Chad Posick has a B.S. degree in criminal justice and an M.S. degree in public policy from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He just finished his Ph.D in criminal justice from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He has worked with Project Safe Neighborhoods in the Western District of New York as well as the Department of Criminal Justice Service’s Project Impact. His research areas include restorative justice, cognitive behavioral interventions and action research.

We talked about Chad's research and study: More Than a Feeling: Integrating Empathy Into the Study of Lawmaking, Lawbreaking, and Reactions to Lawbreaking. "Empathy is related, directly or indirectly, to important elements in criminology such as the enactment of harsh penalties for repeat offenders, antisocial behavior, feelings of legitimacy toward the law, and attitudes toward the death penalty. Although empathy is beginning to find its way into criminological discourse, it is still not well understood nor often incorporated into quantitative research. "

Sub Conferences: Science and Justice

Howard Zehr: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Restorative Justice

Widely known as “the grandfather of restorative justice,” Zehr began as a practitioner and theorist in restorative justice in the late 1970s at the foundational stage of the field.  Author of many books including The Little Book of Restorative Justice.

We talked about the role of empathy as a foundational value in the restorative justice movement. Edwin thinks a more accurate term would be restorative empathy.  Howard said, "This vision of mutuality is supported by neuro science and attachment theory. The new neuro science is teaching us that we as a human being, our brains are designed to connect with other people."  He feels victims of harm may be resistant to talking about empathy.  
Sub Conference: Justice

Maria Seehausen & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Reflective Listening

Maria Seehausen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at the Cluster of Excellence: Languages of Emotion of the Free University Berlin, where she works on her dissertation on the effects of empathic paraphrasing on emotion in social conflict. She also works as a freelance mediator, trainer and coach, and is interested in the scientific exploration of intervention techniques used in conflict resolution. Maria is lead on the study, 'Effects of empathic paraphrasing - Extrinsic emotion regulation in social conflict'.

"In the present study, we investigated the effects of empathic paraphrasing as an extrinsic emotion regulation technique in social conflict. We hypothesized that negative emotions elicited by social conflict can be regulated extrinsically in a conversation by a listener following the narrator’s perspective and verbally expressing cognitive empathy.


20 participants were interviewed on an ongoing or recently self-experienced social conflict...  it is possible that empathic paraphrasing not only leads to a reduction of negative emotion in participants, but even induces positive emotions, such as happiness and relief about being listened to and validated.'

Sub Conference: Science and Justice

 Kay Pranis: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Circle Process

Kay Pranis is an independent trainer and facilitator for peacemaking circles, as well as, an advocate and leader in Restorative Justice and Circle Process movements. Kay has been involved in the development of circle processes in criminal justice, schools, neighborhoods, families and the workplace. She is author of, The Little Book Of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking.

"We have raised an entire generation without the prerequisites for developing empathy and then are outraged when they seem not to care about the impact of their behavior on others. We did not consciously decide to raise them without empathy, but that is the result of significant changes in our social behavior.  The development of empathy requires:

1. regular feedback about how our actions are affecting others, respectfully communicated
2. relationships in which we are valued and our worth is validated
3. experience of sympathy from others when we are in pain"

Sub Conference: Justice

Panel 18: The Intersection of Conflict Resolution and Empathy

Cinnie Noble

Kenneth Cloke

Eileen Barker 

Lorraine Segal
Edwin Rutsch




How do conflict resolution professionals describe empathy? What are the connections between empathy and healing conflict? How do coaches and mediators build empathy for their clients and themselves? How do forgiveness and empathy connect? These eloquent, distinguished experts in the field have a free ranging discussion of these and other related questions.
Sub Conference: Justice


Panel 6: How does Empathy Show up in Your Restorative Justice Work?

Deb Witzel
Rea Blash
Laura Snider
Beverly Title

Edwin Rutsch

1. How do you all think restorative justice helps build empathy? Do you have a story of when you saw it or felt it?
2. When you are sitting in a restorative justice process how do you know when empathy is happening?
3. What ways do you work to build empathy when doing restorative justice?
4. What else would you like to say about restorative justice and empathy?
Sub Conference: Justice

Dahlia Lithwick: How to Build a Culture of Empathy on the Supreme Court and Beyond

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and is a commentator on various national media programs such as NPR, Rachael Maddow Show, Democracy Now, etc. She has written and commented on the role of empathy in relationship to the Supreme Court, same-sex marriage and woman's issues.

There was a great deal of contention and confusion about the nature of empathy during the last Supreme Court nomination hearings. We talked about preparing now, for the next Senate discussions and debates about the role of empathy in the justice system and Supreme Court.


"When Obama talked about empathy in “The Audacity of Hope,” he was very, very clear.  He didn‘t want judges to make stuff up so that the poor guy wins.  What he said is, put yourself in the other person‘s shoes, right?  That was his mom‘s credo. When he talks about empathy, I think all he‘s saying is, just listen.  Listen to what the other side is saying.  See if there is merit to their argument.  And then think it through."   Sub Conference: Justice

Charles Halpern talks with Edwin about Empathy, Meditation, Barack Obama, Justice & Law
   Edwin's interview with Charles Halpern. 'He is a scholar in Residence at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley, is a public interest entrepreneur, an innovator in legal education, a pioneer in the public interest law movement, and a long-time meditator. Charles Halpern has been leading a movement to promote  mindfulness and empathy in the practice of law.'
Peter Gabel on Building a Culture of Empathy in the Justice and Legal System

"A co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Peter was instrumental in creating the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law, and Politics, a nationwide group that seeks to bring together law teachers, lawyers, and law students who seek to connect the inner and the outer in a fundamental transformation of legal culture. " An editor at Tikkun Magazine. "We social change activists need to move forward in a way that manifests, respect, concern and care.  That doesn't dominantly manifest anger, bitterness, resentment and rage....  We need to become militant empathy advocates."

 Kim Wright: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy
Publisher/Managing Editor at
Studied Law at University of Florida

What if Lawyers were Peacemakers, Problem Solvers, and Healers of Conflicts?
Sylvia Clute: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy in the Justice System

I am an author and attorney in Richmond, Va., presently engaged in the creation and implementation of a unitive justice system in a high school. Author Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for a Compassionate Revolution.


Dominic Barter Dialog on the Nature of Empathy
Empathy Documentary: Dominic Barter on Empathy (1 of 4) Founder of the Restorative Circles conflict mediation process
"One of the things I experience when empathy is present, is that the blocks to action, which does not exclude are removed. So one of the ways that I can identify that empathy is present, is that whatever is impeding action is gone, and that the quality that that action has is that it tends to include, it connects, it brings pieces together, it resolve what appears to be knotted and bond.
Kris Miner: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Restorative Practices
I blog on my perspectives as a Restorative Justice practitioner and executive director of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program. SCVRJP provides several programs and services to our local community. Additionally, SCVRJP provides contracted trainings and presentations, to help schools, agencies or communities that want to implement Restorative Justice.

Molly Rowan: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Restorative Justice

Founder and Director of Mali Rowan Presents, Mali Rowan Leach is host, producer, catalyst, social media specialist. Her key focus is social media & transformation, social healing and restorative justice.


She says empathy is like bridge or a pair of shoes that alchemize one's awareness, extending it beyond our immediate selves into the experiences,  feelings, and awareness's of others in the past, present and future. The opposite is like living in a dark cave.  We need to move the justice system out of the cave into the light of restorative empathy and justice.  Sub Conference: Justice

 Fred Sly & Vika Miller: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy in Prisons
Fred Sly, Program Director & Vika Miller, Executive Director, The Oregon Prison Project. Working with Compassionate Communications/NVC to transform prisons and make them cultures of empathy. Fred says empathy is like a puppy dog pile where no-one is embarrassed to play and all are included versus coldness and mechanical robots.  Vika says it's like a compassionate room where we can be everything that we are. There is room, space and acceptance for all that we are as human beings. The opposite of empathy would be a closed fist of disconnection, resistance, closed heartedness.  Sub Conference: Justice
Emily Gould: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy in the Justice System
  Empathic Mediation and Empathic Communication
Beneath the positions and strategies of people in conflict lies a magnetic field of possibility, our common humanity, ready to invite resolution. Empathic Mediation is a structure for resolving conflict that taps into this rich source of resolution with empathy.
    Sub Conference: Justice
Joe Brummer & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy in the Justice System

We discuss the article which was critical of empathy: Great Negotiators Think With Heads, Not Hearts - Empathy Can Subvert Human Well-Being - Forbes - by Victoria Pynchon. The article’s use of the word “empathy” not congruent with Joe’s understanding of the latest research from people like Frans De Waal, Author of “Age of Empathy” or Jeremy Rifkin, Author of the Empathetic Civilisation, or Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz the author’s of “Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered”
Sub Conference: Justice

Panel 009-A: How to Build a Culture of Empathy in the Justice System

Panelist:  Victoria Pynchon

Panelist:  Joe Brummer

Convener:  Edwin Rutsch
We follow-up talking about Victoria's
Forbes article and explore How to Build a Culture of Empathy in the Legal and Justice System.
Sub Conference: Justice

 Lorraine Segal: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy 
  Welcome to Conflict Remedy, Journey to the Heart of Communication. I am a communication and forgiveness coach, mediator, trainer, and facilitator.  I share ideas and stories to help you transform and heal your challenging communications.
Sub Conference: Justice