AN EXERCISE IN EMPATHY
Sandy Robinson, LPC, NCC
Person 1 will start by saying to Person 2: "Can you share your concerns with me?" Or "Would you be willing to share your concerns with me?"
Person 2 will start to share his/her concerns. Person 1 is listening intentionally and purposely with the intent of hearing and understanding. After Person 2 has shared all his/her concerns (i.e. “all talked out”), Person 1 will then repeat back to Person 2 what he/she heard and understood the concerns to be. If Person 2 agrees that "yes, that is my concern", he/she will usually bob his/her head up and down in agreement. This is how Person 1 knows that Person 2 feels he/she has been heard and understood. If Person 1 gets it wrong, Person 2 might say " NO, that is NOT my concern" and try again. If this happens, Person 1 does not try to tell Person 2 what he/she interpreted, simply listen. When he/she finally “gets it”, Person 1 then says, " Can I now share my concerns with you?" and the process begins again, taking turns to listen and repeat the concerns heard.
Now that both parties have been heard and understood, they "invite" each other to brainstorm and problem solve. This works by choosing a concern that they both want to work on and identifying all the possible ways that this concern can be addressed that are (1) realistic, (2) within their power to make happen, (3) doable within a given timeframe, and (4) acceptable to both parties.