What does empathy mean?
Empathy is “feeling into”, seeing how it is
through another's eyes.
It involves experiencing the feelings of
another without losing ones own identity.
The emphatic person senses the other
person’s bewilderment, anger, fear or love
“as if” it were his own feeling, but he does
not lose the “as if” nature of his own
involvement. (Robert Bolton, People Skills, 1987)
Some of the things that help you to feel
empathy towards another person are:
Some of the things that make it difficult to
feel empathy towards another person are:
Lack of interest
Lack of respect
The key elements of empathy as a skill are:
We must separate our responses from those of
the person we are empathizing.
Retain objectivity and distance
Be alert to cues about feelings offered to us by
the other person.
Communicate to people our feeling for them and
our understanding of their situations.
Some things a person can do to help in the
communication process are:
Stop talking. Always remember that if you are
talking, than you are not listening.
Using “mms” and “ahs” to encourage them.
Maintain good eye contact.
Display attentive and welcoming body language.
Some things a person can do to shut down
the communication process are:
Not really listen
Not showing interest
Not being attentive to the person speaking
Poor eye contact
Changing the topic
When attempting to empathize with
someone you must always be on the
watch for empathy blockers. There are
four main types:
Threatening: “Do it or else”
Ordering: “Don’t ask me why, just do it because I
Criticizing: “You don’t work hard enough”;
“You’re always complaining”
Name-Calling: “Only an idiot would say that”;
Shoulding or oughting: “You shouldn’t be so
angry”; “You ought to face facts”
Withholding Relevant Information: “If you knew
the “big picture” you would see it differently”
Interrogating (micro-managing): “How many
hours did this take you?” “What are you doing
Praising to manipulate: “You are so good at
report writing, I would like you do this one.”
Diagnosing motives: “You are very possessive”; “You
have always had a problem with time management”
Untimely advice: “Why didn’t you do it this way?”
Changing the topic: “Yes it is a worry…by the way, did I
tell you I applied for a new job?”
Persuading with logic: “There’s nothing to be upset
about. It’s all quite reasonable…we just do this…than
we do that…”
Topping: “I crashed the car last week” and you follow
with “When I smashed up my car…”
Refusing to address the issue: “There is
nothing to discuss as I cannot see any
Reassuring: “Don’t be nervous”; “Don’t
worry it will work out”; “You will be fine”
Always remember that people in trouble
want to be reassured and we want to give
However the “there, everything will be
alright” approach is not a help. It may
actually be a disservice as everything may
not be alright.
The kind of reassurance that people in difficulty
need is not meaningless comfort that the
problem will take care of itself, but rather our
statement of faith that they will be strong enough
to work it out even if it is not alright.
Let them know that you are available and would
work with them in finding something that can
Some of the consequences of using “empathy
Defensiveness, resistance and resentment.
Decreases the ability to solve problems
Creates emotional barriers between people.
People tend to fall into the trap of using
empathy blockers in many situations,
They might be under stress
Out of control
Out of habit
With awareness of our use of empathy
blockers we can try to choose more
effective methods of communication.
When we use an empathy blocker, or shut
down our communication when an
empathy blocker is used on us, we are
probably relying on a habitual and
automatic way of behaving that we learned
In other words “We React”.
However, when we pause a moment and
choose a response that opens rather than
closes communication, then we can
“respond”. You may use phrases such as
“I’m listening”, “this really seems important
to you” or “let’s discuss it”.
By choosing to respond, we are taking
control of our behavior and opening the
door to richer relationships.
Once we are responding rather than
reacting , there can be times when offering
assurances or giving advice can be
helpful. Those times come after you have
listened and others know they have been
heard, and after you have shown them
respect and recognized how they are
Reassurance and advice may then be
given in a cautious, constructive and
supportive manner that empowers them to
do what they need to in order to move on.
We wish to thank the Conflict Resolution
Network for their generous donation of materials
used in the creation of this presentation.
Conflict Resolution Network
PO Box 1016, Chatswood NSW 2057
Phone: +61 (0)2 9419-8500
Fax: +61 (0)2 9413-1148
This course was created by AMFA Local 11 to
assist in the education of its Professional
Standards Committee members.
Permission to use this material is granted to any
This course was created using materials
provided by The Conflict Resolution Network.
Permission has been extended to use this
material providing credit remains intact on all