Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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School Educators talking about Empathy
Interviews on empathy with
trainers with the Center for Nonviolent Communication who are integrating NVC into U.S. schools. Interviewed at the Teach for Life retreat In Palo Alto, California,  (2010-07-08).  Sura Hart, Desiree Banzhaf and Katy Dawson.

Sura Hart on How to Deepen the Empathy


  • Introduction:  Sura Hart is an internationally recognized trainer with the Center for Nonviolent CommunicationSM (CNVC) and is the contact person for projects integrating NVC into U.S. schools.

  • holds Teach for Life retreats

    • educators - creating compassionate and lively schools and communities

  • First awareness of empathy?

    • When daughters were born

    • beheld new life

    • was in awe and wonder sensing into their world

    • seeing through their eyes

    • follow their leads and interest

  • that's different from the way most of us were raised

  • saw parenting is most often about getting kids to do things our way

  • exploring a different way a being - sensing into their world

  • got excited about educations

  • schooling is set up cultivate obedience instead of awareness of ourselves and interests

  • children are seldom asked what they want

  • various teaching experiences

  • why when children come into life they are energetic but lose it in school

  • like to support teachers and parents and their empathic connection

  • mutual cooperation and respect - and empathy brings that about

  • developing school structures that can support this

  • change the adults behavior to support empathy, instead of judgments, etc.

  • Ways to deepen the empathy?

    • using NVC and the understanding of motivations

    • the needs that they have

    • parents and teachers want to support and nurture the children, understanding needs is a helpful tool

    • see the beautiful needs

  • Became curious about people needs, instead of judgment or avoidance



Sura Hart on How we can Build a Culture of Empathy?


  • How can we Build a Culture of Empathy?

    • 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

  • Seems like your about building a culture of empathy?

    • The schools are where we teach culture

    • We're teaching, adversarial, competition, working for intrinsic rewards

    • Systematical shutting down empathy and supporting violence, greed and deception

    • Paul Hawkins - a change is happening

      • we're forging a new pathways

    • we're working separately and can get discouraged and lose hope

    • I enjoy bringing people together, the pioneers

    • seeking new ground with empathy and compassion, aliveness

    • many of us are doing it.

    • A whole movement is building empathy, understanding, compassion, peace

    • the numbers are growing

    • getting together with others is good to do,


Sura Hart - Teachers and Parents Need Empathy to give Empathy


  • Teachers and parents need empathy

  • need to feed themselves so they can give more empathy

  • it's a shift in focus

  • self responsibility - we have needs too



Desiree Banzhaf on Empathy being Yummy and Refreshing


  • was public school teacher

  • read books and studying NVC

  • have passion for it and teach it at NVC Santa Cruz

  • Empathy is yummy and refreshing

  • is something we all are craving but don't know it

  • sometimes working with kids it's just what they needed

  • they're not used to it

  • just being heard and their experience is being validated

  • being present with empathy for someone else is like meditation

  • Empathy is great on either end

    • getting or receiving

    • receiving -is a deep relaxing out breath

    • giving - they relax

  • when I first learned it

  • was more of a mental activity

  • then started following - being with

  • Another aspect -being in presence - doesn't require words

  • there's no efforting


Desiree Banzhaf on How We can Build a Culture of Empathy?


  • How We can Build a Culture of Empathy?

    • 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

  • with kids grow up in a world - they have less unlearning

  • Skills, a culture of empathy

  • We're moving toward that

  • Systems in place that builds empathy - is growing

  • Some Processes

    • restorative circles when things fall apart

    • we are in the baby stages of systems that support empathy

  • The narrative of your life and how did empathy develop?

    • had an intention of empathy but didn't know what it was

    • the underdog, minority,

    • pull to protect

    • the first memory and the ice cream in the closet

    • didn't give it to sister and felt horrible, shameful - stuck with me

    • I feel for my sister

    • remember issues of race and racism,

    • the relationship with empathy?

    • something in my heart that wanted to be present with people


Katy Dawson on Having Empathy for an Angry Child


  • teaches 3rd grade

  • Kindergarten - Story of dealing with angry child with empathy

  • boy throws block at other child

  • dealing with this incidence with empathy

  • finding his needs, making connection

  • get connected then anything is possible

  • connection is a start

  • open heartedness, connection

  • Empathy is really powerful - it opens hearts

  • it's listening

  • Build community through empathy

  • let's go help, what happened? how's he feeling?

  • looking at other's feelings

  • Naming the experience

    • it helps kids that are unhappy to hear it from others


Katy Dawson on Empathy and Open Heartedness


  • check in with my heart

  • kids ability to connect

  • open hearted versus wanting to do something

  • give empathy

    • don't give empathy because I should

    • have an open heart

  • stories of bullying and empathy

  •  aikido of empathy


Katy Dawson on Akido as Metaphor of Empathy


  • empathy is like Akido

  • valuing each sides energy or needs

  • there is not right and wrong, no bad guys

  • following the energy

  • human beings are energy - we want to connect

  • a pull to connect with each other

Katy Dawson on How we can Build a Culture of Empathy?


  • 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, 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




Sura Hart on How we can Build a Culture of Empathy

Sura Hart on How to Deepen the Empathy

Sura Hart - Teachers and Parents Need Empathy to give Empathy

Katy Dawson on How we can Build a Culture of Empathy?

Katy Dawson on Having Empathy for an Angry Child

Katy Dawson on Empathy and Open Heartedness

Katy Dawson on Akido as Metaphor of Empathy

Desiree Banzhaf on How We can Build a Culture of Empathy?

Desiree Banzhaf on Empathy being Yummy and Refreshing