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Empathic Listening - Four Week Class Series (Portland, OR)

You value meeting others with empathy and compassion, but find it is not so easy. Perhaps you find yourself getting caught in arguments, trying to fix it for people or just feel uncomfortable not knowing what to do.

Sometimes you find yourself listening to the same complaint or difficulty from the same person many times over. You would like to help, but also don't want to be held hostage in repetitive conversations.  Listening with empathy does not mean being a silent hostage.  Listening with empathy can be an active and engaged process.  You can learn to interrupt repetitive or escalating conversations in a way that leaves the other person feeling heard and moves the conversation forward in connection.  

Hi LaShelle— I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your work-- I so appreciate, and am moved by your skill in placing your compassionate, intelligent focus on our human heart connection with each other. Your insight has really helped me be better able to contain other people in my heart, and to be more compassionate and understanding of their needs, and my own. -- anyway, I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your good and important work— thank you!

From your biggest fan, Carl

Empathy is a powerful way to meet others where they are and reveal a new way forward. In this four week series you will get to practice empathy by engaging in mindfulness and the skills of Compassionate Communication. You will practice using situations in your own life.

Week 1: What does it really mean to listen with empathy? 

Practice putting on new ears and learning to listen for feelings and needs.  See how much easier it is to not take things personally when you can listen for the feelings and needs behind what someone is saying.

We will start the class by defining empathy in the framework of NVC and then naming what gets in your way of offering empathy when you would like to.  You will then do a simple exercise on your own and with a partner to distinguish four different ways of hearing others. 

In a small group you will get some practice listening for feelings and needs regardless of how triggering or offensive another's expression might be. 

Lastly, I will demonstrate empathy in role plays in front of the whole group.

Week 2: The experience of giving and receiving empathy

We will begin by going over some common "faux feelings" than can lead empathy astray and into colluding with blame and misperception.

Next you will have an opportunity to give and receive empathy in a small group.  This exercise is structured in such a way that habitual ways of responding to other's difficulty (like advice giving, asking questions, consoling, education, telling your story) are blocked.  You will have a feelings list and few needs cards in your hands.  This helps with kinestetic learning and also simplies the process of offering empathy guesses by giving you only a few choices.  The receiver of empathy gets to talk for 2 or 3 minutes about whatever personal experience he or she would like to receive empathy for and then gets to receive the empathy guesses in silence, mindfully noticing what resonates.

After debriefing the former exercise, you will get a chance to practice empathy fluidity in an exercise call empathy popcorn.  You will write down a few quotes you have heard recently for which you would like to have offered empathy.  You will get a chance to say each one and then hear your group respond popcorn style with empathy guesses.  Again, you just get to take in the guesses and notice your experience.  You won't be moving into a full role play of the situation.

If time permits we end with me demonstrating empathy role plays in front of the room.

Week 3: Obstacles to Empathy

In this class we will go more deeply into what blocks your ability to give empathy and how to practice with that.

Week 4: Practicing with challenging relationships 

You will bring the skills you've learned in the last three weeks together to practice bringing empathy to your most challenging relationship.  This will include self-empathy practice as well as an exercise that I call deep empathy which opens a window to the experience of the person with whom you are struggling to connect.


Classes will be held for four Tuesday evenings, 7-9:00pm, on November 28 - December 5, 12, & 19, 2017
Friends Meeting House
4312 SE Stark, Portland OR 97215
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$80.00   Register Online