Culture of Empathy Builder:  Newt Bailey


Benefits of Empathy: Newt Bailey and Edwin Rutsch

Newt Bailey is a Nonviolent Communications trainer. He says, i "I help executives and employees create exceptional workplaces, and enhance their productivity and creativity, through improved communication and conflict resolution skills. I work in the San Francisco Bay Area as a communication coach and trainer. I also provide mediation and meeting facilitation services."


Newt says some of the benefits of empathy are:




Benefits of Empathy: You Do Not Have to Fix People: Newt Bailey (1)



Benefits of Empathy: Empathy Gives People What they Need: Newt Bailey (2)



Benefits of Empathy: Empathy Gets Rid of Resentment: Newt Bailey (3)



Benefits of Empathy: Empathy Prevents Conflicts: Newt Bailey (4)



Benefits of Empathy: Empathy Resolve Conflicts: Newt Bailey (5) 



Benefits of Empathy: Empathy Builds Trust: Newt Bailey (6)



Benefits of Empathy: Newt Bailey and Edwin Rutsch - Full video



Newt Bailey talks about Empathy and the group gives him Empathy.
In this video, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) trainer Newt Bailey talks about his experience and the nature Empathy at his NVC practice group in Walnut Creek California and the group gives him Empathy. January, 24, 2011.   
(Video on Vimeo)

(thanks to Mercedes Breaux and Denise Gallinetti for transcripts)

0:00 Bit of Dialog


1:00 Newt to Edwin:

Where do you want to proceed to?

Do you want to ask me a question?

Edwin:  What comes to mind as you think of empathy?

Newt: That's a big question

Edwin: Yes, it is


I was thinking as I drove over here about my mother

I think this would be ok with speaking about ...


She is very skilled about worrying, may lose sleep; and, the next day may talk about it

Another thing that comes up for me is that I want to help...I feel an urgency to help

What naturally arises in me...I want to help and help the people I love the most--obviously

Upon  reflecting:  the times that situations become awkward or disconnected  I find myself

desperately trying to help vs being willing to respond with empathy


Empathy is just being willing to sit or stand  there and not need her to be doing anything other

than talk about her worry


If I open my mouth to speak, its not going to be about asking... have you thought of this or

maybe  you can do this.... Now, these responses may be fine and potentially  beautiful

suggestions that she may be open to and that may be useful......


There is something about the amazing possibility, and I believe the most useful, is doing

nothing.  That is what I am aiming to do, just be with this person speaking

From my experience this  is a much rarer response  in the world of my

experience.. that is, at least in America  and U.K....rather than trying to help......


I want to pause here a minute, as hopefully, I am surrounded by people who are doing just what

I  talk about... I am kind of interested in what everyone is  hearing

5:00 Reflective Comment: 

 As I am listening, I am hearing when you are having  conversations with your mom; and, she is

a really important person to you.  And, there are times that the conversations have felt awkward.


That can happen sometimes;  and,  my sense is that it is most likely to happen when I  want  a  change;  for example,  that she not worry … I want to find a solution


Reflective Comment:

When you are able to be present with her worry;  actually...the connection is there



Yes,  I have a much better sense of connection...can't speak for her ...

As you see that the connection is sufficient in certain ways...the goal in itself...

if its even  a goal...I like to be connected with people I like..; and, at the same time I can notice what can arise out of that  connection... change can happen  much more easily if there is something to be

done... if that is what she seems change will arise naturally by my listening... 

People  know that when someone is making a suggestion to push back or when

you make a suggestion to someone … they  push back  ….there is this pushing; no openness.

There is no spaciousness...


I want to say this clearly: to be a truly empathy response...there is more space between the

words... people are not talking as quickly or talking over each one is pushing an agenda

Would someone tell me what they are hearing...

8:00  Reflective Comment:

I think I am hearing you say that the goal is not change; but,  the whole process of  being there

with that  person  sets the stage...and sometimes change will occur...because its easier...

there is not  you  making a suggestion ...the person is more open up for the possibility to

move in some direction



Its an interesting edge because there are many things I'd love to see change.. I am not just talking

about my mum enjoying life as fully as she can...the same way I want for anyone else.

But,  in the world in general...obviously there are other forces in nature and so on.

In the places where there are human beings having the  possibility to make change;   in order for

any of us to speak to that, we would need  communication.


There are things I would like to change in the world and yet  in the moment when I am speaking to

a person, my focus is not on is on what they are saying and what is the experience

they are having right now might be a politician or who knows who it might be...what is

this conversation about; what is going on with them in this moment...empathy  is not about

causing change...its absolutely not...and yet it provides a foundation where connection can

happen; and,  in that  way, we have these great human brains  for these solutions to theses

problems that arise  that we are not struggling with each other


11:00  Reflective Comment:

So the  willingness is not to fix it in the moment,  it gives that person spacious  room for that

person to be with themselves... and for you to be with them as they journey for what is going on

for them in the moment; so, there is actually room for change to happen.



There is room for change; but even prior to that, there is room for them to be just as they are.  If

someone says they do not want to protect the local park as they want to build on it.  I am totally

wanting to protect the park.  In this moment I give up on protecting the park.   I am attentive to

what is important to them, why do they want to build.   There is some possibility  because we

are not in a fight.  Many people expect a fight  when you don't agree with them.  People get

into proving their point. Instead we are hanging out talking. There is some possibility for a

different can we get to how  you want and will also maybe protect the park.


Reflective Comment:

What I am hearing is that empathy takes steps; first would be your awareness; awareness about

how you feel about your mother and the next step is there is a  willingness to put your own

feelings aside to listen to her, to be present for her, to hear her words.  Is that correct?


13:00  Newt:

Its  not just a first step...the thing about self awareness  ...Its good to notice if you are able and

willing to empathize....Yes, then I can switch my attention to the person speaking. And yet,

its not just the first step because periodically I want to come back ....I would want to have

enough self-empathy for myself...I want to notice if I start to tense up ….noticing ...when you are

with a person; some irritation, urgency , defensesiveness comes up...subtle; something

just happened ability to be with someone has changed. 


Reflective Comment:

Its not a step by step process,  its an ongoing process and choice    



Choice ... its very important ..there are two reasons I think  why people don't do it

One reason...people will make a mistake thinking that listening is agreeing 

The other reason people may not want to do empathy is that they feel stuck...

and think they better not start empathizing...may take too long....

what if I  want to stop in 5 minutes

You cannot pretend to empathize …
if  you are wanting to be with the other person there is joy;

or,  if  you don't, you stop listening ...


17:00 Reflective Comment:

Then you go on to thinking about own needs...what are my needs here...


Reflective Comment:

Yes …  what is coming up for me right now



Are you saying you can do the form of empathy without the spirit of empathy



Yes...overtly  start looking for cell phone...

 There is nothing much for me to get from not saying the truth when I am  really at a place to

 stop empathizing. 


Reflective Comment:

Now it sounds like empathizing for self is needed



Maybe it is empathy;  maybe its something else;  maybe I'm tired and need to lay down; maybe

I want to go out and have fun...

I want to be responsive to something else


20:00 Newt:

Imagine you’ve been in conflict with someone…a small/large conflict..

It could be very big, e.g. a divorce, business partnership breakup, etc.

In a big conflict there are often practical matters involved. Even when those are resolved, sometimes it’s not enough because the other person still thinks you are in the wrong and you know they still think you are in the wrong.


What happens for you then?


You want to be seen as a human being, to be understood in this conflict, even though you may have done some regretful things.

I dearly long to be seen and understood for my part in this conflict, not trying to make excuses for myself, not trying to condone my behavior…


What I’ve seen is that you can be in situations where you can find no hope at all that the other person is going to empathize with you, see your point of view or deeply see what it was that was happening for you.

What I notice is that I can dispense with my desire to be seen and forgiven, even temporarily and I can switch my focus to giving understanding to them, by empathetic listening and to take time to ask them what’s going on for them. I keep asking them, showing that I genuinely want to know, What I have found is that not only do I get to hear what is true for them, my heart opens and the other person begins to demonstrate, in miraculous ways, a willingness to see things from my point of view and even have a profound understanding.


It doesn’t come from my demanding empathy from them, rather my caring about what was up for them. The end result is empathy for me as well as empathy from me.


25:00 Reflective Comment:

I’m hearing that when you are in the midst of a conflict, and the other person is repeating their story over and over, and you would like your side to be heard, it is your desire to release your desire for empathy and to choose to empathize with the other person . Breakthrough and empathy for both can result.



Yes, it can serve me in a surprising way to give up on being heard myself for the moment and to just hear them.


Reflective Comment:

So if you really stop, put your own responses to the side and allow the other person to be genuinely heard, then sometimes it can flip in a way in which they can perhaps give you empathy.



It seems like just by my bringing empathy in to the room, even if the other person doesn’t use the word “empathy,” or study communication or any of that, that a shift can occur.

It is almost contagious.

It can serve to assist other’s awareness.


28:00 Reflective Comment:

What do you do with any resentment you may feel at not being heard?

How do you bridge that space between feeling resentment and being able to hear them with empathy?


29:00 Newt:

This is fundamental …because what I’m talking about makes it sound so easy, putting my needs aside …It’s not easy..


The answer is still empathy…


In these kinds of conversations, one can use a process of empathy that goes on for weeks, months…

So what am I doing in between in order to be able to show up with empathy for this person?

In between, I’m getting filled with empathy from others, from a trusted friend, who can just listen to me, about this conflict.


In getting filled, you can pour empathy out on the other person you are in conflict with…

You could ask…If you are getting empathy from this other friend, then why the need to get empathy from the person in conflict with?


Because…we can be profoundly touched when the person we are in conflict with “gets” and understands how the conflict is for us. Our continuing to get empathy from our friend supports us in staying present in empathy within the conflict.


We long for this, but must watch attachment to it…

Possibility for astonishingly profound level of connection that can happen with the other person…


Reflective Comment:

Even though you get empathy from your friend, your desire is to have understanding from the person you are in conflict with.



If I get understanding from the person I was in conflict with, many particular needs are met for me… contributes to some internal release, need for healing, releasing of protectiveness …


32:00 Reflective Comment:

By getting empathy from someone else , you feel more hopeful and you can return to this person in a more giving, present place. Connection is the goal, desire.



Connection is all pervading for me; the goal I’m holding a lot of the time.. when I get empathy from my friend I want connection; when I interact with the person in conflict I want connection, when I stop to check in with myself, I want connection…


AND…There’s a way that when we talk about this that it can seem very stiff, a work-like thing.

That’s not my experience about it.

It’s no more work than showing


up for something you love doing. It requires your focus, energy, time, discipline. But it gives back.

I’m scared sometimes when I talk about empathy as a life practice for me… that it can sound like drudgery and work.


It’s more about the possibility for this amazing, real human connection in all areas.

There is possibility for shift… freedom from the drudgery of that difficulty of the conflict,,

It’s definitely where I want to be, always including myself and the other person who’s getting empathy from me, focusing on the other and myself.


So when the process becomes a bit tiresome, it doesn’t mean it’s a problem. It means I need to attend to whatever is up for me and then come back to it.

I’d love some reflections.


Reflective Comment:

What I hear is that empathy is a moment to moment experience.

But when there isn’t any place in you to give empathy right then, how do you stop and attend to yourself? You have been giving this person empathy and suddenly you cannot give any more.


38:00 Newt

Newt discusses about how in groups which meet to learn and discuss empathetic communication, compassionate communication, there is often a huge imbalance between the number of women and men.

Comments on the notion that empathy is not drudgery nor alien to being a man.. Many men think of empathy as belonging in the realm of women.


Men may focus on action and resolution, fixing the problem...theirs is a driving to solve this “thing.”

No problem about the “drive,” and sometimes the most effective thing to do in that situation is to give empathy… is to listen.. Within the desire for effectiveness, not only is empathy not drudgery (it’s not a “soft skill”), but sometimes it is the only thing that is powerful enough to correct the situation that is being struggled with.. And it is missing because it is thought to not belong in this realm of drive and productivity.

It is missing from your tool kit. You can try everything else to try to right your marriage or company, etc and the situation doesn’t change itself.


If you ignore empathy as a valid tool, you are throwing away sometimes the only tool to work something out. (description of his own experience of the effectiveness of empathy in the corporate world, before and after he had this tool)


42:00 Reflective Comment:

What comes up for me is empathy is not only a verbal communication. It can also be a non-verbal.



To quote Marshall Rosenberg…“Empathy is a silent pursuit.” It’s the being with the other person and how that shows up with words, or a hug…and whilst hugging them, are you thinking about dinner? That would be a hug and thinking about dinner. It would not be a hug and empathy. But if you are attentive with all the senses to them, that is empathy. It might be just a look and I am listening and I am here, being present with empathy.


44:00 Reflective Comment:

What I was struck with is that empathy is such a powerful tool in our kit and as we drive ahead to get a job done, we question the need to listen...but that without the tools of listening and empathy, we may never accomplish what we want to do. It may be the most straight forward way to reach your goal


45:00 Newt

Yes...I’ve been in many organization and company settings and there are such problems they are not finding ways to overcome…As an observer from the outside and observing the interactions of the people, you notice that there is no culture of making sure that you have heard what the other person actually said… and making sure that you’ve understood it before starting to pull it apart.. (All the misunderstanding that results)

Absence of attention to detail in a certain way. There is an attention to everything when you are empathizing. For example, in discussing an idea in business, if I’m paying attention to you fully, I get way more than just your ideas. I might hear hesitancy or enthusiasm when you talk about the idea, and if so, I want to hear about that as well.


I have a willingness to listen to you, to take an interest, invite your ideas… then more ideas might get sparked as compared to a reaction of, “No, no, no…that’ll never work.”

There is a way in which I am serving myself in a business context if I empathize because they may even come through with the key idea to the entire solution.


48:00 Reflective Comment:

I’m understanding of the significance of being present and having an intention to be present for someone…to really listen...more of a flow comes out of that..



It could be a flow of ideas or just of flow connection…or solutions...creativity


Reflective Comment:

I want to return to Connection.. pause… men vs. women in terms of their ability to process …To me “intention” is the key. Words like “connection’ and “feelings” get in the way… the aliveness, joy and hope that come from hearing and being heard is missed sometimes because of the process… the words get in the way , that people judge the words or experience the words as critical…or demanding..



or you’re just using words which are weird to me


Reflective Comment:

I’m trying to capture that the most important thing is the aliveness and joy that comes from the process and having the intention to do that…


50:00 Newt

So I'm going to check on what I am intention first  and foremost is to empathize,  be present with you; your ideas, your feelings, your wants and  needs...I might use some words to  help me to stay with you  . to double check if this  is what you are  meaning.    Now, I don't want to use words that might create distance   I f you are a person who does not like connection or feeling, I am  not going to use those words because they distance...Does this match what you're …


Reflective Comment:

 Absolutely..... I have another question....where does the intention come from



Presence  with you... empathy is its own intention...empathy and presence are very much

 aligned...its about what's happening now you are talking to me being present for you in the

moment...its not  my breakfast that is happening ...its being here with you.... that is the closest

definition that I can give in this moment



I m noticing Marilyn wants to speak and then there is Helene's question


Reflective Comment:

As I was listening to your response to Mercedes about what is your intention; in that few seconds I

 already lost the word that you said...would you be willing to repeat it



Oh, yeh....I said presence


Reflective Comment:

At the time I heard the word presence; what it brings up is what I heard you saying before... that just seeing that other person as another human being...does that match



Hmmm.. I like that … how would I say that...I suppose implicit in presence for me is my attention is

not on  my judgment of you ; even if judgments occur; if my attention is on you, all these other

ideas: like seeing  you as a human being, having compassion for you,  equality,  your needs are as

important as my needs, in a certain way, it loads  more space for them... if I think of you

less impt,  that's some judgment, I'm still not interested in that;  so automatically, with empathetic

presence equality comes to mind...


Yes, the importance for me; and,  I have had feedback from people in a vareity of

 audio...didn't silence it, need to put it on silencer...

How's does my hair look ...(laughter) ...take two...

Yes... the importance to me for people under very different circumstances...they may not have available

 resources, they are homeless, they are in prison....

They  think I am in a powerful position, I don't give intention to that, I give my attention to them... no

matter ...being present with people in this way appears to allow connection to happen … and you

may learn things you would never know  if you  are viewed  as a higher up or a scary whatever..


56:00 Newt

I want to respond to Helene's question ...If you have been attentive;  and now,  the truth is you no

longer want to be attentive,,, so what then ...we've played with this before...and I am sure it will

come up again....for me it boils down I ok with the fact that sometimes I am done with

listening.. am I ok that  the time is meter has run out … I need to go get pizza or

something...if  I'm not ok with that... its going to be a problem to break off when someone is still

speaking know that time may come … and that's ok …

And when I don't feel good about that what   I want to do … great punch line... I want to  get empathy

from someone about that...I want to be  heard about the fact that  I have trouble breaking off the

conversation...even though I am done with the conversation...because I have trouble breaking off the

conversation,  I might feel awkward, uncomfortable or scared... I notice that by being heard I will be

more ready for the next conversation  …and to say ...I am done now...

How you say that … could go something like this: I've been enjoying listening to you for a while

and now I feeling a need to move on....would it be ok with you if we resume the conversation

another time....does that make sense...


Reflective Comment:

Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head because I was not feeling comfortable...


59:00 Reflective Comment:

I think also the fact that you are saying could we  resume another time, its like telling the person I am

not cutting you off, I am just taking a break,  so they don't feel so offended



Yes, you might say to yourself you  will never talk with this person again...the truth is  you  may

be very willing to resume the conversation with the person after you get some empathy;  especially if

you love the person...its just that you hate them at the moment...that's the truth... we have all had that

experience....I'll never talk to them again...and then you do


60:00 Reflective Comment:

you may be in a better place to talk to them after empathy



I had one last question, how is this for you, talking about empathy



I feel energized...whether or not everyone in the room will agree if I live by this...they can tell you for

themselves.... my intention when I come to group is to make enough space for others to speak as

much as possible; that what I am doing is modeling empathy I am not very often  just talking

about my  ideas, my opinions,  and experiences  Everything in the group is request driven, so unless I

have a request  to talk a few hours...(laughter) ... then we could do it...

It feels like  in a certain way it meets my need for balance. We do accentuate practicing empathy and

self-expression, so in sharing  my personal experience meets my need for balance.. I love the format,

getting reflection, and actually having empathy while talking about empathy.



Reflective Comment:

Do you feel heard



I do feel heard, my need for empathy is met.




Newt Bailey Insights into Empathy  May 22, 2009  
(need transcript outline)


Empathy gets rid of resentment.


 Sample Blurb. 






Newt Bailey