Learn how to practice empathy skills through understanding the five attributes of empathy.
Identify the differences between empathy and sympathy and learn how to connect with empathy or “feeling with” vs. “feeling for.”
Learn the three components of self-compassion and assess your own level of self-compassion through Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Scale.
Develop skills to help you connect meaningfully with people who have different perspectives from you.
Reading Assignment – Daring Greatly
Chapters 3 and 4
Lesson Video – Empathy and Self-Compassion Part 1
Lesson Video – Empathy and Self-Compassion Part 2
Exercise One – What Does Empathy Look Like?
Use the blank spaces to answer these questions with your own thoughts and ideas. For the multiple-choice questions, check as many answers as apply and feel free to add your own answers in the blanks.
If you ask 100 people to complete this exercise, you’ll get 100 different answers. Empathy is highly individualized and we all need different responses at different times based on the issues. There is no easy formula for empathy. There’s just connection and paying attention.
Exercise Two – Practicing Empathy
When we’re looking for connection and empathy, we need to share with someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles – someone who has earned the right to hear our story.
But finding that someone takes practice. When it comes to empathy, it’s often about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue.
Read the following scenarios describing various types of empathic misses. Ask yourself when and with whom you’re more likely to experience this, AND when and with whom you are more likely to respond to someone else’s struggle like this.
1) Indicating that shame is warranted: The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. The friend gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is an awkward silence. Then you have to make this person feel better.
2) Sympathy: The friend who responds with sympathy (“I feel so sorry for you”) rather than empathy (“I get it, I feel with you, and I’ve been there”). If you want to see a shame cyclone turn deadly, throw one of these at it: “Oh, you poor thing.”
3) Disappointment: The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. This person can’t help you because she or he is too disappointed in your imperfections. You’ve let this person down.
4) Judgment or righteous anger: The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she or he scolds you: “How did you let this happen? What were you thinking?” Or the friend looks for someone to blame: “Who was that guy? We’ll kick his butt.”
5) Minimizing: The friend who is all about making it better and, out of his or her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be crazy and make terrible choices: “You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad. You rock. You’re perfect. Everyone loves you.”
6) Comparing or competing: The friend who confuses “connection” with the opportunity to one-up you. “That’s nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!”
We have all experienced these empathic misses, AND we’re all capable of being “these friends” – especially if someone tells us a story that gets right up in our own shame grill.
We’re human, imperfect, and vulnerable. It’s hard to practice empathy when we’re struggling with our authenticity or when our own worthiness is off-balance.
That’s why we have to commit to practicing empathy, screwing it up, and circling back.
Exercise Three – Self-Compassion Assessment
Now follow the link to Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Assessment on her website. The assessment can be found on the colored box on the right side of the page. Test your level of self-compassion. The assessment is self-scored and the results tie back to the three elements of self-compassion. Look for the box below:
Once you’ve completed and scored Neff’s Self-Compassion assessment, answer the following.
Video – The Power of Empathy
A few participants commented on this video in the lesson discussion, so we’re adding for everyone to view.
Art Journaling Exercise
Decorate your journal page by adding color or other background designs.
You can use the supplies you have available to get creative when completing and decorating this journal page.
Find or take a picture that represents healing touch and attach it to your journal.
Write down words and phrases you would say to a close friend when they are going through a difficult time.
Add your name to the end of each of these phrases.
Write down a healing mantra:
Example: “This is hard, but I can do hard things.”