Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Karla McLaren

Karla McLaren: How to Build a Culture of Empathy
Karla McLaren says, " I’m an author, social science researcher, a cappella arranger, and an empath, which means I know that I read emotions. I worked as an empathic healer for twenty-five years, and I once thought that my empathic skills were mystical.

She is author of,
The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill

Karla also leads workshops, she says,  "Empathy is possibly the most important social skill you possess, yet it can be very fragile. It is common to get triggered and lose the capacity to empathize in the presence of conflict, anger, fear, or anxiety. You may attack or withdraw, or become unable to think or feel your way to a more useful response. The solution: learn to fully embody your empathy so that it becomes a safe and reliable stance that you can return to in times of trouble."


The Art of Empathy:  A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill
Some of us are natural-born empaths—those with an exceptional gift for feeling and understanding the emotions, circumstances, and needs of others. But empathy, teaches Karla McLaren, is a universal skill that we can all learn to awaken and use wisely. With The Art of Empathy, she guides listeners step-by-step into the art of experiencing through the eyes and hearts of others—and to connect with and support them most effectively. Drawing on insights spanning sociology, current brain research, and traditional healing wisdom, this acclaimed teacher shows us how to:
  • Discover and strengthen this natural social and emotional ability 
  • Prepare for empathy training by learning to identify and regulate our own emotions and boundaries 
  • Move into the felt experience of others with authenticity and respect 
  • Use our empathic skills to communicate with and benefit those around us 
  • Improve our intimate relationships, parenting efforts, and workplace issues 
  • Expand our empathy into our communities and even the natural world "

The Art of Empathy, Part 1
The Art of Empathy, Part 2
"What does it truly mean to have empathy? Can some of us be “hyper-empathic”? If empathy is something we feel we’re lacking, then how do we cultivate it? In this week’s episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami speaks with author and social science researcher Karla McLaren about the subject of her new book and [...]"


Karla McLaren - The Art of Empathy (introduction)

The Art of Empathy is a book and audio learning program that will help you understand empathy clearly and tangibly, so that you can bring your unique empathic gifts to our waiting world. Learn more at

Embodying Empathy - An October Workshop In Berkeley!

"Empathy is possibly the most important social skill you possess, yet it can be very fragile. It is common to get triggered and lose the capacity to empathize in the presence of conflict, anger, fear, or anxiety. You may attack or withdraw, or become unable to think or feel your way to a more useful response.

The solution: learn to fully embody your empathy so that it becomes a safe and reliable stance that you can return to in times of trouble.

In Embodying Empathy, somatic psychologist and aikido sensei Nick Walker and empath Karla McLaren will help you access your empathy tangibly so that you can work through your triggers and use all of your emotions as the essential resources they are.

This one-day experiential workshop will help you befriend and strengthen your natural empathic abilities and access your emotional awareness with support and ease."

Interview on:
 Embodying Empathy! Workshop: Empath meets Aikido - Karla McLaren & Nick Walker 


Karla Mclaren on Empaths and Empathy: The Language of Emotion - Interview with Edwin Rutsch


  • 00:00 Introduction?

    • Author: The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You

    • emotions are trying to tell us what's going on

    • book is an entry into emotional intelligence

  • The book starts off with you saying you are an empath, what does that mean?

    • I thought was a psychic

      • I could pick up subtitle  emotion

      • worked as a psychic

      • was reading nuance and emotion

    • I am an empath, we are all

      • was central organizing factor in my life

      • empathy to read other people

    • empathy with things, concepts

      • place take - even with math

      • I am a number

    • I am dyslectic

    • pick things up emotionally

    •  mom called it plus disabilities

  • 04:20 How do you define empath?

    • someone that is aware that they are reading emotions, undercurrent and nuance

    • understands the language of emotions and uses it as a tool

    • that's my own definition

    • someone said you are the proto empath

    • distinction between empathetic and empathic

    • if a person is crying

      • empathetic - you may soften your approach with the person

        • being with the emotions

      • empathic -  see underneath the presetting emotions

        • what's going on at greater levels of abstraction

    • we have professionalized emotions

      • pay money to go to therapist, etc

      • difficulty in emotion is taken out of daily context

      • we are not taught about emotions

    • 08:00 talking about Building a Culture of Empathy

      • empathy is a skill of understanding emotions

      • welcoming them

      • tolerating them

    •  Building a Culture of Empathy will be hard if understanding emotions is primarily professionalized

  • 08:20 Definition of empath as being very sensitive?

    • highly sensitive to sound, color, sound, movement, behavior. voice, etc

    • everything comes in at me.

    • difficult in the classroom when you need to focus

    • I noticed everything

    • sensitive to the entire environment, over abundance of empathy

    • I needed to learn boundaries and not empathize with people

    • people need to learn what is mine

    • you can go flying off in someone else's journey

    • learn skills, learning to set boundaries, calm myself,  so I don't go off into someone else's emotional behaviors.

    • understand my own emotions

  • 11:00  Could lose yourself and not know who you are?

    • I was abused by a neighbor

    • was available to people who were off the hook I would keep them company in order to be empathic

    • now able to sociologically visit them

      • not throw myself away

    • my impulse was to fix it, to fix this persons problem that they were not willing to fix themselves

    • the aura - understand it now as personal space

    • can read the boundaries

      • imagine I had a boundary or was an open book or wound

      • would imagine the boundaries

      • that was life saving

  • 16:00  Does abuse lead to loss of boundaries?

    • I dealt with sexual abuse

    • we have a sense of the world around us, when someone comes in physically and takes control of your body it's hard for everyone

    • especially for children who haven't set up a sense of self

    • in book talk about anger

    • anger is about boundaries

      • anger impaired

    • sadness as boundary

      • for letting go of what is not working

    • fear - as boundary

    • healthy anger

      • hold yourself steady is anger

      • this is where my anger stays

      • a force and power of anger

    • people who have felt abuse - anger is dropped

      • sense of self is gone

    • emotions - use them as skills

  • 23:27 My mother deals with it by just talking and talking and talk? I can never get a word in.

    • on and on and on-ymous

    • take possession of a room

    • my mother is like that

    • talking talking

    • do be empathic with that she is in a cycle she can't get out of

    • difficult - took years

  • 26:00  Now I try to reflect, listen - empathy?

    • Ask what would a normal person do

      • most people turn away, then the person feels even of alone

      • normal behavior is to get away

      • I go in and touch the arm

      • go in close - they will take a breath

      • do the opposite of what the behavior requires

    • I do it with homeless people

      • I will stop and talk with them

      • some peoples humanity comes back

      • others the contact is too painful

    • People ask, How can I be more empathic?

      • ask me every 15 seconds - it changes

      • being aware enough

      • do repair

    • non of us are taught this

    • people thought that emotions are the opposite of logic and rationality and this is untrue

    • is being studied in the sciences now

    • when people say "don't  get emotional now" they are using emotions, anger, fear, etc

    • we don't have a language for emotions

  • 30: 50 What do you mean we don't have a language for emotions?

    • can name emotions but not understand them at a deeper level

    • in book each emotion has it's own chapter

      • explore each emotion

      • what you do with them

    • we go to school we are to have figured out our emotions

    • we don't tell them what the emotion is for

    • we have roles for anger

    • no information for what to do with the anger and what it is

    • understanding

    • shame

      • anger looks on the outside

      • shame looks on my behaviors

      • most have shame applied from the outside

      • shameless is not a good thing

  • 37:20 Ways of deepening empathy? understanding gives some grounding?

    • understanding makes it not so fearful

    • One of the best ways to create empathy is to let people know that whatever feeling they are having is ok

    • classifying emotions, negative and positive,

    • all emotions have a role, we need them all

    • it has a purpose, help us survive

    • Sometimes with empathy I want to feel calm when someone is angry

    • whatever emotion you have is ok, then what are you going to do with them?

    • know about the emotions

  • 40:15 Empathy and boundaries. Getting lost in it. Is there a way to address that?

    • if you can say the emotion to yourself

      • get the language in yourself

      • very helpful for making boundaries

    • anger makes us work for social justice

    • how to oppose injustice without being unjust

    • empathy is an emotional skill

      • a vocabulary

  • 45:00 Naming the emotion in the relationship?

    • yes, because you could be wrong

    • so good to verbalize it to check if your correct

    • I would get under people socially to give them space

    • it's improvisation

    • empathy has a improvisational quality

  • 50:30 How to be aware and articulate ongoing awareness?

    • I had to focus and shut off the noisy world

    • create a sense of privacy

    • I developed an active internal monologue

    • it's difficult to be so aware in social situations and know what to do about it

    • I ignore it unless asked about it

    • be aware that things are changing and most people don't know it

    • difficult to be in a room with people who are not so aware

    • close to people and separate

    • become the person

    • feeling separate

    • feel other worldly when I see the media, horror, violence

    • being highly empathic in this world

  • 59:00 About the interview

    • How do we create a culture of empathy?

      • learning about what emotions are

      • people see negative emotions  as what stir things up

      • we need to appose injustice

      • be able to say it's not right

    • Watching liberals and conservatives

      • personally not join in a group that apposes other groups

      • do your politics demonize others, that does not work

    • watch out for demonization

      • remove energy from any group that demonized

    • Get rid of the idealization as well

    • Empathy is my go to thing

      • also need the skills behind it

    • we're a social empathic species

      • everyone has a right to exist

      • maintain a steady state

    • I learned my empathy can fix everything

    • my hope is we can have empathy for humans

  • 1:09:00  Do you have a metaphor of empathy?

    • a singing ocapela in harmony with a bunch of people

    • opposite is no singing

    • empathy is all the voices coming together

    • it's rich

    • without empathy I don't hear anything

    • a dialog between singing and no singing.

  • 12:00 Final thoughts?

    • in the no bully movement I see bring the bully into the conversation and the community

    • Building a culture of empathy

      • it's a system

      • have a conversation about emotions in the schools

      • the more we can learn about emotions - the more empathic we become

      • Emotions are not going away

      • my book is my gift and a tool for building a culture of empathy


WHAT IS EMPATHY? (KARLA MCLAREN) By cjliu | March 18, 2015










Developing Empathy through Reading
Learn the single skill that could radically improve your relationships and emotional life. Empathic pioneer and author of “The Art of Empathy”, KARLA MCLAREN, shares four decades of empathic experience with current insights from neuroscience, social science, the arts, and healing traditions.

Video Interview: Talking about empathy with Tami Simon
Tami Simon and I got a chance to talk about empathy last year when I was in Colorado recording the audio workshop for The Language of Emotions. She’s a wonderful interviewer, and I want to expand on a few things we covered in this short interview (here’s the the original empath: Gem from Star Trek).

  • What does it mean to be an Empath?

    • someone that is aware that they read emotions

    • we all read emotions, we can't not

    • focusing on words versus behavior/feelings

    • I'm an empath - a highly sensitive person

    • I would see what is going on in relationships

  • how do you see the information?

    • nuance, body language

    • the hierarchy in the relationships

    • surface behavior versus the deeper qualities

    • who thinks they are in charge and who is

  • Why hard to feel your own self?

    • not taught

New Empathic Skills!
It was really fun to build a curriculum for fellow empaths, and to create a place where emotional awareness was accepted and expected.

Are you a skilled emotionologist?

As psychology, neuroscience, and primatology leap forward in understanding, we’re finally remembering that empathy and emotions are essential to our intelligence.

The Age of Empathy
Oh, here’s a great book you’ve got to read: The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. Primatologist Frans de Waal works with our cousins, the great apes, and has been able to identify empathy and emotional awareness in very helpful ways.

The Roots of Empathy
I’ve written a great deal about what it means to be an empath, and luckily for all of us, empathy is a big topic right now. I just discovered a study that seems to measure empathy. The study is in the news right now because the researchers have concluded that students today are 40% less empathetic than they were in the 1970s. Hmmmmmm.

What is an Empath?
When people ask me what I do, I say that I’m a writer, researcher, and empath. This last title often makes people ask “What?” For my fellow trekkies, the word “empath” has a special meaning. Gem, in the 1968 episode “The Empath,” was able to take other peoples’ emotions and pain into her own body and heal it for them.

Star Trek the Empath

Mirror theory of autism
Normal Movement Selectivity in Autism

The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill

What if there were a single skill that could directly and radically improve your relationships and your emotional life? Empathy, teaches Karla McLaren, is that skill.

We all long to be seen and understood, to be valued and honored, and to be loved for exactly who we are. We also want to connect deeply with others, understand them clearly, and respond skillfully to their wants and needs. We want to navigate through difficulties and conflicts with grace, and we want our relationships to be a source of healing, strength, humor, and love. We want empathy – and we want to know how to offer our empathy to others. InThe Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill, you’ll learn how to develop and work with your empathy, and how to become a healthy and happy empathic presence in a world that needs you!


Part One Welcoming Empathy into Your Life...

  • Chapter 1: What is Empathy, and Why is it Important?

  • Chapter 2: Defining and Redefining Empathy - An Empathic Approach

    • Welcoming Those Who Have Been Exiled

    • A Short History of Empathy

    • Six Essential Aspects of Empathy

      • Emotion Contagion

      • Empathic Accuracy

      • Emotion Regulation

      • Perspective Taking:

      • Concern for Others

      • Perceptive Engagement: 

    • Empathy for Yourself

    • When All Six Aspects Are Challenged

    • An Empath is Someone Who is Aware

  • Chapter 3: An Empath's Guide to Empathy - Developing Your Social and Emotional Intelligence

    • Your Emotional Style

    • Empathic Mindfulness Meditations for Kinetic Sculptures

    • Developing Emotional Genius

    • Action-Requiring Neurological Programs

    • Which Actions are Required

    • Four Ideas that Ensure Emotional Confusion

  • Chapter 4: An Empath's Guide to Emotions - Why Emotions Arise

  • Chapter 5: The Art of Empathy - Gathering your Tools

Part Two Brining Empathy into the World

  • Chapter 6: Empaths at Home
                  Creating a Sanctuary Where empathy can Flourish

  • Chapter 7: Empathic Friendships, Empathic Love
                  Relationships as an Empathic Art Form

  • Chapter 8: Empathic Communication - Getting into Sync with Others

  • Chapter 9: Empathic Mentoring, Empathic Parenting
                 Getting Into Sync with Others

  • Chapter 10: Empathy at Work
                      Excelling in the Art of Emotion Work

  • Chapter 11: Empathy for the World
                       The Empathic Art of Social Justice

  • Envisioning an Empathic Civilization Together


Benefits of Empathy

  • Skillful empathy can help you immerse yourself in physical activities like art, music, or dance, so that you can embody the art form and live it in fully.

  • Skillful empathy can also help you immerse yourself in intellectual activities like reading, writing, research, or theory-making so that you can understand ideas and experiences with complexity, breadth, and compassionate depth.

  • Empathic awareness can help you understand emotion work in yourself and others so that you can interact skillfully and empathically.

  • Empathic accuracy can help you identify emotions clearly so that you can understand others, and also understand the many ways that media, advertising, activists, and politicians work to manipulate your emotions.

From book

  • Empathy is crucial to the functioning of all social structures - large, small, intimate, local, national, and international.

  • Empathy helps us offer support. (helps us offer sensitive, perceptive and appropriate communication and support.)

Benefits of Empathy for Empaths with Karla McLaren and Edwin Rutsch: Full Interview

Empathy can help you uncover the vital information inside every emotion.

Empathy can help you understand ideas, art, and literature very deeply.

Empathy can help you clearly identify "emotion work" in yourself and others.


Empathy can help you protect yourself and others from emotional manipulation.


Empathy helps us offer support.