Handouts: How-To Do Empathic Listening ᔥCenter for Building a Culture of Empathy

For some, empathy comes by nature, for some of us is a practice to be developed. As a designer all the movement for a human centered design is a key driver to practice and act upon this principle. To hear, understand from the other one in front of us. I Hope you enjoy this.

My best to you all. Federico


These are basic instructions for holding an empathy circle with a group of 3 to 5 participants (4 is ideal).

In this Empathic Listening process:

  1. The first person selects who they will speak to;
  2. they then speak about whatever comes up for them;
  3. the listener reflects back what they are hearing;
  4. until the speaker feels heard to their satisfaction.
  5. Then it is the listener’s turn to select who they will speak to
    and for that person to reflect back what they are hearing,
    following the above steps.
  6. The dialog continues back and forth like this for the time allotted.

For Speaker

  • Pause often to give the listener a chance to reflect back what they heard you say.
  • Remember that you are guiding the listener to hear you to your satisfaction. You are ‘teaching’ them how to listen and empathize with you the way you want to be heard.
  • When you are done talking, you can say something like, “I’m fully heard” to indicate that you are done and it’s the listener’s turn to speak.

For Active Listener

  • Reflect back, summarize, paraphrase, etc. what you hear as best you can.
  • There is no right and wrong.
  • No worry about getting it right, the speaker is guiding you in how they want to be heard.
  • While it’s the speakers turn to talk, refrain from asking questions, judging, analyzing, detaching, diagnosing, advising or sympathizing.
  • When it’s your turn to speak, you can say whatever you want.

For Silent Listeners

  • You can listen and be present with the empathic listening between the speaker and active listener. You will soon have a turn to actively listen and speak.
  • Sometimes it’s handy to take notes about ideas that come up for you or what has been said by others for documenting and “harvesting” the discussion.

Building More Empathy

With this basic process, we can start creating empathy circles and add other empathy community building activities to the process, such as;

  • Focusing Felt Sense
  • Compassionate Communication
  • Feelings & Needs
  • Somatic Exercises
  • Role Playing
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Mediation
  • Empathic and Human-Centered Design,
  • etc.

See Sample Empathy Circles

Feedback From Participants. I like…

  • opportunity to listen, share, be heard and be seen.
  • being heard, and getting some practice in being heard!
  • practicing empathy discussion to get better at listening.
  • the structure of this practice allowed and facilitated connection and understanding with my partners.
  • that I felt fully heard about my experiences and anxieties. I enjoyed hearing about other people’s life experiences and seeing how productive the practice of active listening and feedback encourages authentic communication and healing.
  • being able to practice empathy, especially reflective listening.
  • the fact that the listener doesn’t give answers to the thoughts of the speaker, only listens and reflects, letting The speaker genuinely express his/her feelings fluidly and according to his feelings not being guided by the listener.
  • I  felt more grounded after 1. being able to share, 2. hearing others speak and be heard, 3. reflecting others.
  • reflection leading to further insight.

#asimetagraf #idocare4design #fedehndz #empathy #designthinking

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