The aim of Empathy injection to share the ‘tools of empathy’. It’s very confusing in the media and scientific research what Empathy even is. Some researchers talk about Cognitive empathy (ability to imagine what life might be like for someone) and Affective empathy (ability to feel what the other person is feeling)
I draw on the Nonviolent Communication understanding of empathy; empathy is allowing space for the other person to feel what they are feeling, so they can get clarity, so they make changes to improve things.
Some people take on feelings and experiences of other people very easily, that is not the aim of this kind of Empathy. If that happens to you, make sure you hold yourself, imagine a protecting power holding your back so that whatever comes in, can go out again. You could also say to yourself as you listen to someone else “I take what is mine and leave what is yours.”
Often we don’t know what we are feeling, we don’t know what we are needing. It takes some reflection to discover this. It’s really like holding up a mirror to what the person is saying. “I’m hearing you say this …”. It’s important to be aware of interpretations and your own feelings. Don’t reflect back “I’m hearing you say (this) and (this) is your own stuff/interpretations/feelings”
It’s very important that the spotlight of an empathic conversation is on one person, rather than bouncing about all over the place as it does in regular conversations, which results in not much listening really happening, just a lot of talking in the vague hope of being heard.
Agreeing to talk for a limited amount of time each might seem a bit artificial and controlling, but this time boundary can be very supportive in having an effective conversation with more listening happening. Active listening can be very demanding so you can’t do this for hours on end! Agreeing to listen to someone with intent for 10 or 15 mins can be hugely effective in getting to the bottom of an issue. (See my ABC of Empathic Listening for more on Allowing, Boundaries and Connection when listening)
How to practice Reflective listening:
(To listen without own thoughts and feelings getting in the way of the speaker’s important process of self-discovery)
I’m hearing you say …
What I heard you say is …
Do not skimp on the Reflective listening.
How to utilise the Boundary of feelings and needs:
Use the energy of curiosity to guess, rather than say the following in a ‘diagnostic’ way.
Are you feeling upset because you’re needing communication and respect?
(to get out of the habit of linking your feelings with whatever someone has or hasn’t done eg “I’m feeling upset because you didn’t call.”)
How to give Feedback to someone when you are listening to them:
When someone talks to you, things gets triggered and stimulated for you, usually as positive or negative judgements. This is real, unavoidable, and there could well be important information in this for the person speaking.
Always ask permission before you give feedback, ask a question or share something from you.
“Something’s coming for me and I’m wondering if you are open to hearing it?”
“I’m telling myself you’re probably not gonna like this, would you still like to hear it?”
Asking permission gives the person a little bit of time to prepare themselves to hear.
Always follow feedback with this question “What happens to you when you hear that?”
There will then be more opportunity for Reflective listening and Feelings and Needs guesses because other stuff will come up.
I acknowledge Maria Arpa’s work around Giving Feedback. Maria does excellent 3 day trainings in her application of Nonviolent Communication which she calls the Dialogue Road Map. https://www.centreforpeacefulsolutions.org/