Empathy is a respectful
understanding of what others are experiencing. Instead of offering
empathy, we often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and
to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon
us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.
In nonviolent communication, no matter what words others may use to
express themselves, we simply listen for their observations, feelings,
needs, and requests. Then we may wish to reflect back, paraphrasing
what we have understood. We stay with empathy, allowing others the
opportunity to fully express themselves before we turn our attention
to solutions or requests for relief.
We need empathy to give empathy. When we sense ourselves being
defensive or unable to empathize, we need to
(A) stop, breathe, give
(B) screamed nonviolently, or
(C) take time out.”
Rosenberg: Empathy, I would say is presence. Pure presence to what is
alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past.
The more you know a person, the harder empathy is. The more you have
studied psychology, the harder empathy really is. Because you can
bring no thinking in from the past. If you surf, you'd be better at
empathy because you will have built into your body what it is about.
Being present and getting in with the energy that is coming through
you in the present. It is not a mental understanding.
Question: Is it speaking from the heart?
Rosenberg: "What? Empathy? In empathy, you don't speak at all. You
speak with the eyes. You speak with the body. If you say any words at
all, it's because you are not sure you are with the person. So you may
say some words. But the words are not empathy. Empathy is when the
other person feels the connection to with what's alive in you...
When you ride the wave, the thrill is
so exhilarating that you forget everything else. You live in the
moment where nothing else matters, so intent on riding the wave
perfectly that you and the wave become one. Pain and worry disappear,
replaced by euphoria, akin to flow. Similarly, when giving empathy,
you want to strive for this kind of total presence for the person you
are listening to. Dr Marshall Rosenberg
"I've been quoted on the
subject of empathy in a recent book edited by Josh Baran titled 365
Nirvana Here and Now: Living Every Moment in Enlightenment. The author
excerpts a passage in which I compared empathy to surfing. I said that
empathy is like riding on a wave; it's about getting in touch with a
certain energy. But the energy is a divine energy that's alive in
every person, at every moment.
Unfortunately, many of us are blocked from that divine energy by the
way we've been taught to think. But for me, empathy is getting with
that energy that's coming through the other person. It's a divine
experience. I feel as if I'm really in a flow with divine energy. And
when two people connect in that way, any kind of conflict can be
resolved so that everybody's needs get met.
When we teach people to empathize with people from other cultures who
are behaving in a ways we do not like, we find ways of resolving our
differences peacefully. So empathy is a beautiful experience when we
have it. And it's powerful to work toward peace in diplomatic
relationships based on empathy, not on our usual adversarial tactics.
Now when we can empathize with what's alive in another person, it's
amazing how much healing can go on. Unfortunately, there's a lot of
healing that needs to happen in the world because of the pain people
are in, and I'm often called to help individuals who have been
victimized by people with different religious beliefs.
I recommend allowing others the opportunity to fully express themselves
before turning our attention to solutions or requests for relief. When
we proceed too quickly to what people might be requesting, we may not
convey our genuine interest in their feelings and needs; instead, they
may get the impression that we're in a hurry to either be free of them
or to fix their problem. Furthermore, an initial message is often like
the tip of an iceberg; it may be followed by yet unexpressed, but
related - and often more powerful - feelings. By maintaining our
attention on what's going on within others, we offer them a chance to
fully explore and express their interior selves. We would stem this flow
if we were to shift attention too quickly either to their request or to
our own desire to express ourselves.
Suppose a mother comes to us, saying, "My child is impossible. No matter
what I tell him to do, he doesn't listen." We might reflect her feelings
and needs by saying, "It sounds like you're feeling desperate and would
like to find some way of connecting with your son." Such a paraphrase
often encourages a person to look within. If we have accurately
reflected her statement, the mother might touch upon other feelings:
"Maybe it's my fault. I'm always yelling at him." As the listener, we
would continue to stay with the feelings and needs being expressed and
say, for example, "Are you feeling guilty because you would have liked
to have been more understanding of him than you have been at times?" If
the mother continues to sense understanding in our reflection, she might
move further into her feelings and declare, "I'm just a failure as a
mother." We continue to remain with the feelings and needs being
expressed: "So you're feeling discouraged and want to relate differently
to him?" We persist in this manner until the person has exhausted all
her feelings surrounding this issue.
What evidence is there that we've adequately empathized with the other
person? First, when an individual realizes that everything going on
within has received full empathic understanding, they will experience a
sense of relief. We can become aware of this phenomenon by noticing a
corresponding release of tension in our own body. A second even more
obvious sign is that the person will stop talking. If we are uncertain
as to whether we have stayed long enough in the process, we can always
ask, "Is there more that you wanted to say?"
WHEN PAIN BLOCKS OUR ABILITY TO EMPATHIZE
A mother can't breastfeed her infant if she doesn't receive adequate
nourishment herself. Likewise, if we find ourselves unable or unwilling
to empathize despite our efforts, it is usually a sign that we are too
starved for empathy to be able to offer it to others. Sometimes if we
openly acknowledge that our own distress is preventing us from
responding empathically, the other person may come through with the
empathy we need.
At other times, it may be necessary to provide ourselves with some
"emergency first aid" empathy by listening to what's going on in
ourselves with the same quality of presence and attention that we offer
to others. The former United Nations secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold,
once said, "The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the
better you will hear what is happening outside." If we become skilled in
giving ourselves empathy, we often experience in just a few seconds a
natural release of energy which then enables us to be present with the
other person. If this fails to happen, however, we have a couple of
We can scream - nonviolently. I recall spending three days mediating
between two gangs that had been killing each other off. One gang called
themselves Black Egyptians; the other, the East St. Louis Police
Department. The score was two to one - a total of three dead within a
month. After three tense days trying to bring these groups together to
hear each other and resolve their differences, I was driving home and
thinking how I never wanted to be in the middle of a conflict again for
the rest of my life.
The first thing I saw when I walked through the back door was my
children entangled in a fight. I had no energy to empathize with them so
I screamed nonviolently: "Hey, I'm in a lot of pain! Right now I really
do not want to deal with your fighting! I just want some peace and
quiet!" My older son, then nine, stopped short, looked at me, and asked,
"Do you want to talk about it?" If we are able to speak our pain nakedly
without blame, I find that even people in distress are sometimes able to
hear our need. Of course I wouldn't want to scream, "What's the matter
with you? Don't you know how to behave any better? I just got home after
a rough day!" or insinuate in any way that their behavior is at fault. I
scream nonviolently by calling attention to my own desperate needs and
pain in this moment.
If, however, the other party is also experiencing such intensity of
feelings that they can neither hear us nor leave us alone, the third
recourse is to physically remove ourselves from the situation. We give
ourselves time out and the opportunity to acquire the empathy we need to
return in a different frame of mind."
"Empathy, of course, is a special kind of understanding. It's not an
understanding of the head where we just mentally understand what another
person says. It's something far deeper and more precious than that.
Empathic connection is an understanding of the heart in which we see the
beauty in the other person, the divine energy in the other person, the
life that's alive in them." Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent
Communication: A language of Life (2nd ed)
“Now, with regard to the people who have done things we call
“terrorism,” I’m confident they have been expressing their pain in many
different ways for thirty years or more. Instead of our empathically
receiving it when they expressed it in much gentler ways — they were
trying to tell us how hurt they felt that some of their most sacred
needs were not being respected by the way we were trying to meet our
economic and military needs — they got progressively more agitated.
Finally, they got so agitated that it took horrible form.”
Marshall B. Rosenberg
This Youtube video has 2 sections on empathy, they starts at;
Session #4 -
Empathy (1) - 3h12m45s ends at 4:20:27 Dynamics of empathy as practiced within Nonviolent Communication.
"In this session I will be discussing the dynamics of
empathy as practiced within Nonviolent Communication. As an image to
help you understand what I mean by empathy, I'd like to refer to an
image that was quoted in a book, 'Here and Now'...
The image goes this way, I relate empathy to surfboard riding. I say,
imagine yourself getting up on a surfboard. This entails getting in
touch with a certain energy. If you get on exactly, you can get
knocked off. To me, empathy is somewhat like that Empathy is getting
in-touch with a life energy that is coming through another person. ."
Empathy is like surfboard riding
getting in touch and staying in touch
with the life energy coming through others
flowing with the energy in people
Components of empathy
Full Presence (and awareness)
to what is alive in this person
"In this session, I'll be showing the power that empathy has in 3
functions. Healing, mediation, and reconciliation. In the previous
session we looked at the dynamics of empathy. We saw how it requires our
full presence to another person. And full presence on what's alive in
them, what they are feeling and needing. An now in this session I
will show just how powerful that process can be in healing past wounds,
mediating conflicts between people, and reconciling groups that are at
war with each other, to see how they can live in peace and harmony. The
power of empathy. First, let's look at how empathy supports healing."
(Benefits of Empathy fosters healing,
what the power of empathy has
in 3 functions, healing, mediation, reconciliation
concerns with the concept of
mental illness, has lots of problems
if we can look at the pain in a
certain way we can come out stronger
empathy plays a key role, there
are three aspects of empathy that play a key role
1. when people in pain get
empathy for the present pain - the empathy is the most
important thing for addressing the pain. -
Carl Rogers research -
empathy was the key ingredient
empathy is the key ingredient
just to receive empathy for
our pain. it's an important contribution to healing.
2. if a person in pain can
empathize with the person that stimulated their pain,
that can be healing.
does sample role play -
father and daughter
what's alive with you now
about what happened in the past.
A method using compassion, understanding, empathy, to transform wars
and conflicts, promoting Human Capacity to contribute to the well
being of others.
In a book a father's son dies and it's a painful time in his life. He
says in the book. "What was even more painful were the things that good
people were saying to me to make me feel better, that made me feel
worse. So they were saying to him advice, how sad they felt. Because a
lot of people mix up sympathy with empathy. So they say things like 'I'm
sorry you feel that way.'
They don't realize that
when they say that they are taking the focus away from the other
person and putting it on theirfeelings.
It is real important that
we see the difference that we see the difference between sympathy and
Empathy is like being fully engrossed in a book.. So
being engrossed in the other person.
Martin Buber calls this presence. It's the most
precious gift one person can give to another..
not being self
oriented and expressing our feelings
a precious gift
Empathy is harder with people you know
and have a history with Studying psychology makes empathy harder.
"This is a very
powerful gift when we can give it.
of healing show that it's primary factor in healing, the degree to
which the listener can just empathically connect and not try to
direct, or analyze, give advice."
Part 3: Empathically Hearing Others "..What makes you confused about this? - Cause I don't know how to
respond to those needs - What it would take is just empathy; if she
could just feel the empathy that I just gave her; if you could just say:
"Are you feeling in pain because you havethe need for reassurance that
your needs matter? - Yes, yes! I've tried to tell you that foryears! You
don't listen!" - I'm guessing now I'm feeling sad because I'm not
meeting ..ehm......the needs. - Hold your sadness, she needs more
This is what often happens: we get to our feelings too quickly! With my
help we just got started, we just... this is not the end...There is a
lot more pain in there that she needs empathy for, before she can hear
your sadness, so..... ?" I wanted to say that almost every time, so I had to take a deep
breath and realize empathic connection before education. ...
Actually I needed to give her some emergency first aid
empathy, before I could pull her by the ears to get her to hear him."
Part 3: Empathically Hearing Others
26:44 Now, see, it hasn't been easy for me to give this jackal
27:00 empathic connection before education.
35:21- Did you try to empathize with her at any point,
35:38 Actually I needed to give her some emergency first aid
45:44 if they first feel empathy for their feelings and needs.
49:41- First, once there is empathy,
49:43 people feel that their feelings and needs matter,
49:47 which is done through the empathy.
51:48 to give both of them the empathy they need to hear each
51:53 So if two people are in pain, they don't know how to
51:57 give themselves enough empathy to be able to hear the
52:01 then you need to get a third party
52:04t o give the empathy to each of them so they can then hear
52:26 but it could be to give empathy to both sides separately
Language of Compassion (empathy) versus Language of
"the empathy is the second part, he's seeing this other persons
humanness, and the way we see the humanness is to see the needs
without these enemy images clouding that. It's not easy to do that and
requires full presence to what is alive in this other person."