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?

Empathic Design
Empathy Circles

  Restorative Empathy Circles
Empathy Tent

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy


    Empathy Tests


How to Build a Culture of Empathy? (under development)
We're asking people to share their stories, thoughts, feelings and insights about how we can build a culture of empathy. We'd like to come up with a blueprint for building a culture of empathy and compassion.

How we can Build a Culture of Empathy?

  • Create the Vision

    • Create a Vision for what a world with a high empathy level would look like?

    • What's the problem with the world we live in now?

    • What will the world look like as the empathy level rises?

    • What will be some obstacles to our vision?

    • How will we overcome them?

  • Set the Intention

    • Have the intention to build a culture of empathy.

    • how do we get the intention?

    • how does empathy or a culture of empathy improve peoples lives?

    • why would we want to even deepen empathy?

      • it feels good

      • lengthens our lives

      • ?

  • Dialog about it

    • Create a dialog about it - talk about it more

    • Create a national dialog about it.

    • Should we even do this?

      • What objections do people have.

  • Network and connect with others who value empathy

    • it can be lonely if you are on your own.

    • we need the support and encouragement of others who value empathy and want to transform society

  • Build a movement for cultural transformation

  • Study Empathy: Be able to talk about empathy

    • be informed about empathy stories, science, arts, etc.

    • Read articles, books, etc., watch videos about empathy

    • be able to respond to different arguments and concerns

    • be able to address objections to empathy

    • Be able to empathize with the people your talking with.

  • Understand how empathy works

    • as a physical process.

    • develop a deeper scientific understanding of it.

    • Get the science and understanding of mirror neurons out into the public

  • Clear Definition

    • Have clarity about what empathy is and have a clear definition?

    • What does it mean?

  • Modeling

    •  it is the key to education

    • Real dialogue with dialogue instead of fights

  • Have people experience the visceral  'feel and 'taste' of it.

  • Practice Empathy, Practice Empathy, Practice Empathy, Practice Empathy, Practice Empathy,  

  • Fill your empathy batteries

    • the more empathy you receive, the more space you have to give it.

    • we all need support

    • Parents need support, - parenting leave, etc

  • Promoting empathic people to the top of social institutions

    •  like supreme court, government

    • People mirror their leaders - need empathic role models as leaders

  • Develop training that deepens the individual components of empathy

    • Self Empathy

    • Mirrored Empathy

    • Imaginative Empathy - cognitive empathy

    • Empathic Action

  • Remove blocks to empathy

  • Empathy Rapid Response team

    • a team to respond with empathy to attacks or misinformation about empathy

  • Change all social institutions to actively support empathy.

    • Government, Education, Media, Justice System, Commence, Healthcare, etc etc.

  • Others

    • go to the pain, suffering, fear, alienation with awareness, presence and empathy

    • create a online curriculum



How we can Build a Culture of Empathy?
  Sura Hart
  • Modeling it is the key to education

  • Parents need support, - parenting leave, etc

  • Give teachers education on empathy

  • Have TV moderators using empathy to bring people together

    • real dialogue with dialogue instead of fights

  • More movies and cartoons that model empathic connection

    • showing another way is possible

  • I have more ideas, I'm thinking about it all the time

  • I appreciate what your doing.

  • I take heart that there are many people bringing forward empathy

    • Obama for example

  • More politicians talking about empathy.

  • local level with skilled moderators, who want to get people heard

  Mutima Imani
Social Justice Minister East Bay Church or Religious Science,
 Faces of the East Bay

How to build a Culture of Empathy?
Forgiveness is at the heart of empathy. I forgive you on the fear based on color removes victim-hood. Democracy that includes all of us, it brings empathetic listening.
    Katy Dawson
  • Working with parents and giving them the tools

  • Schools can become centers of empathy

    • Some say don't teach empathy at school but rather at home

    • they haven't been in the schools

  • letters to the editor, are full of blame

  • want to talk with peoples who's letters confused me

    • get people who are on the other side of the fence to have dialog

    • a forum for conversations

    • for creating connection and understanding

    • so enemies are not enemies anymore

    • We're brought up in a culture of whose right and who's wrong

  • the opposite of what happens on tv now.

    • not trying to listen

    • drama of fighting

    • drama of coming together - movies that are alive

     Desiree Banzhaf
  • We are naturally empathic

    • unlearn the blocks

    • growing up in a natural culture of empathy

  • Some skill development can be useful

  • Building awareness of what is not empathy can help

    • advice, story it reminds them of, questions

    • catching ourselves and bringing the awareness back

  • a practice of what the mind is doing

    • brain attaches, tries to help, organize

    • all those practices help

    • noticing and eliminating them

  Elouise D Oliver
Senior Minister East Bay Church or Religious Science
How to build a Culture of Empathy?
Allow people to cry. Crying we are human and will feel what the other feels. When crying they are feeling their own pain. Now real empathy is happening. Just watching that person in pain, they are starting to empathize now and we don't want to do that. If you can remember your own pain and your own suffering, your own feelings. I can empathize with anyone because I'm a mother. What I know is that every person has a mother.
  Aaron Voldman 
  • need it in every facet of our life

    • business decisions

    • policy

    • change the systems

    • move beyond fault and blame

    • accountability and partnership

  • it's hard

  • lessons learned in the BePeace Program

    • experience in our inner empathy

  • I'm thrilled there's a documentary being made on empathy

  Mike Robins
  • talk about it more

    • love that your taking about it and we're having this conversation

  • talk about it and teaching it

  • studying it more

  • how to increase emotional intelligence to expand empathy

  • continue working to the ideal

  Empathy Interview 1
  • that's beyond our reach

  • creating a culture of sympathy and tolerance

  • empathy is that you feel it, that you are it

  • you feel that person, their pain and joy whatever.


  Empathy Interview 2
  • community, apposing privatization

  • appose greed,

  • worked for common good.

  • I'm promoting KPFA radio

  Empathy Interview 3
  • why can't the other be someone we want to be with

  • the other is someone, since I was born, is someone I've wanted to know

  • every culture is interesting and we can take the good instead of what we do

  •  I don't understand this lack of empathy around the world.

 Empathy Interview 4
  • disposes the ruling class

  • create democratic socialist system

  • need a new social structure

  • need a system the perpetuates empathy?

    • can't have an empathic system in an exploitive social structure

    • you can have individuals with empathy for one another


This group used reflective listening to deepen empathy for each person. People reflected what they heard the speaker say until they felt fully heard, before moving on to the next speaker.

Facilitator:  Edwin Rutsch,  Lenel de Emma
Participants: David Hartsough, Jan Hartsough,
Sherri Maurin, Lenny Reiter

  • Living in the consciousness that “we are all one family.”

  • Create connection rather than separation.

  • Respect/allow for differences, be nonjudgmental, and celebrate differences.

  • Embrace and Engage the Other

    • Visit Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, George Bush, etc.

    • Edwin told story of visiting Tea Party and Republican State convention to talk with participants about the role of empathy in their lives.

  • Find the truth in everyone, every day, all the time.

  • Use the language of connection.


Explanation of How Empathy Works

  • Arts

  • philosophy

  • science

Child Development

  • Roots of Empathy

    • Empathy Circles

  • Teaching Empathy Skills

    • meditation

    • active listening

    • reflective listening

    • education

  • Circle Processes


In Personal Relationships

  • how to work empathy into a relationship?


Circle Processes

  • Empathy hot tubs For Deepening empathy


Foreign Policy

  • a corp of mediators

Community Development

  • Open Space World Cafe Community meetings

  • Dialog and Deliberation



  • Restorative Circle versus debate

  • TV programs and cartoons that model empathy

Empathy Buddies

  • friends/buddies that are there for listening.

Being Heard

  • People having opportunities to be heard

With Crime?

  • Restorative Justice

  • Restorative Empathy circles