(thanks to Mercedes Breaux
Denise Gallinetti for
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?
What comes to mind as you think of
That's a big question
Yes, it is
I was thinking as I drove over here about my
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
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 wants...it seems
change will arise naturally by my listening...
People know that when someone is making a
suggestion to you...you 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 other...no one is pushing an agenda
Would someone tell me what they are
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
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 change...it is
on what they are saying and what is the experience
they are having right now ..it 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 ...so 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 conversation...how can we get to
how you want and will also maybe protect the park.
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?
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 here...my ability to be with
someone has changed.
Its not a step by step process, its an
ongoing process and choice
Choice ... its very imput ..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...
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
There is nothing much for me to get from
not saying the truth when I am really at a place to
Now it sounds like empathizing for self is
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
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
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
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
Yes, it can serve me in a
surprising way to give up on being heard myself for the moment and to
just hear them.
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
It is almost contagious.
It can serve to assist
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?
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,
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…
astonishingly profound level of connection that can happen with the
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
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
It’s no more work than
up for something you love
doing. It requires your focus, energy, time, discipline. But it gives
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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
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
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.
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
It could be a flow of ideas
or just of flow connection…or solutions...creativity
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
or you’re just using words
which are weird to me
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…
So I'm going to check on what I am
getting....my 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 …
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 ...my 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
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
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 situations...my
audio...didn't silence it, need to put it
How's does my hair look ...(laughter)
Yes... the importance to me for people under
very different circumstances...they may not have available
resources, they are homeless, they are in
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..
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
to....am I ok with the fact that sometimes I am done with
listening.. am I ok that the time is
up...my 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 ...you 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...
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
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 ...so 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.