Join me [Lou] for an on the air conversation on Empathy Radio focusing on top tips and
techniques for expanding ones empathy. Click here to play the show: 10 Top Tips and Techniques for Expanding Empathy.
The main tip and technique is right up front – listen to the other person – be quiet and listen to what the other person has to say to you. That turns out to be easier said that done. Am I listening to what you are saying or to my opinion of what you are saying? Are you listening to what I am saying or to your opinion of what I am saying? The opinions, judgments, and evaluations in one’s inner conversation can get very loud. They get in the way of listening. We work on that in the radio show (above).
The secret to empathy training is to remove the obstacles to empathy. Denial, resignation, cynicism, shame, judging, and so on, get in the way of being fully present with another human being – that is, being empathic. When one removes the obstacles, empathy naturally unfolds. When one removes the obstacles, empathy naturally develops, comes forth, and becomes present in the relationship. People are naturally empathic, and unless one must intervenes with practices that promote domination, manipulation, or devaluation, empathy shows up.
The vast majority of people are born with some empathy. There are a few outliers who have very little empathy – sometimes also described as “psychopaths” or “sociopaths” (not the same thing) or on the “autistic spectrum.” There are other outliers who are richly endowed with empathy – sometimes also described as “empaths” or just “sensitive persons” – and sometimes they people suffer from emotional dis-regulation due to hyper-sensitivity. They also require empathy training to “tune down” their receptivity to the emotional states of other people.
The vast majority of people believe that empathy is compassion, according to survey results conducted by this author. Heavens knows that the word needs more compassion; but compassion is not empathy. Empathy tells one what the other person is experiencing as a vicarious experience, trace affect, or sample feeling (which is then further processed as understanding); compassion tells one what one should do about it (i.e., what the other is experiencing). Once again, consult the radio show for further details by clicking here.
We do a lot of work about the distinction between what happened and one’s interpretation of what happened (that is, what one made it mean) on the show. This is critical path to success in expanding one’s empathy.
Contact Lou at aRumorOfEmpathy@gmail.com to schedule an interview, event, or to work one-on-one on empathy. As the author of three professional books on empathy, I work with behavioral (mental) health professionals on burnout, compassion fatigue, and related dis-orders of empathy in their lives and practices, and my own client interactions benefit from this depth of expertise and experience.
Regarding the book publication that is the occasion for the show:
Click here to order: A Rumor of Empathy: Resistance, Narrative and Recovery in Psychotherapy
Those interested in the history of empathy – the distinction, not just the word – will want to check out: Click here to order: A Rumor of Empathy: Rewriting
Empathy in the Context of Philosophy
Those into a Heideggerian account of empathy with further work in Searle’s speech act approach, Husserl, and Kohut will want to check out: Click here to order: Empathy in the Context of Philosophy In empathy one person is quite simply in the presence of another human being. Empathy is supposedly like apple pie and motherhood. What’s not to like? Yet being empathic can be confronting and anxiety inspiring because one has to dispense with evaluations, filters, diagnostic labels, and egocentrism and be with the other person as a way of being. Empathy arouses subtle and pervasive resistances. A Rumor of Empathy engages such resistances to overcome them. People are naturally empathic and given half a chance empathy will come forth, but it is inhibited by limited natural endowment, individual deprivations, and organizational conformity. Classic interventions can themselves represent resistances to empathy, such as the unexamined life; over-medication, and the application of devaluing diagnostic labels to expressions of suffering. Agosta explores how empathy is distinguished as a unified multidimensional clinical engagement,
encompassing receptivity, understanding, interpretation and narrative. When all the resistances have been engaged, defenses analyzed, diagnostic categories applied, prescriptions written, and interpretive circles spun out, in empathy one is quite simply in the presence of another human being.
Lou Agosta, Ph.D., is one of the premier empathy consultants, psychotherapists, and educators in the community. He is the author of three books on empathy including the book that is the subject of this announcement and A Rumor of Empathy: Rewriting Empathy in the Context of Philosophy (Palgrave 2014), a short history of empathy in Hume, Kant, Lipps, Freud, Scheler, and Husserl; Empathy in the Context of Philosophy (Palgrave 2010), a Heideggerian interpretation of empathy with follow on results in Searle, Husserl, and Kohut. For further details on empathy therapy, consulting, and education see www.aRumorOfEmpathy.com
Credit: Cover art by Alex Zonis – http://www.AlexZonisArt.com
Credit: Lou Marinoff, Ph.D. has published a book Plato Not Prozac (Harper Press), which I liked so much that I use it as the title – with attribution – for a chapter in the book that is the occasion for this post. Thanks, Lou! – www.loumarinoff.com/books/
(c) Lou Agosta, Ph.D. and the Chicago Empathy Project
Categories: empathic interpretation, empathic receptivity, empathic responsiveness, empathic understanding, Empathy, empathy consulting, Plato Not Prozac, Publications by Lou Agosta on empathy, resistance to empathy