Empathy Circles for Organizations:
If you want to build more community while developing stronger communication skills, Empathy Circles can be an engaging way for people to practice empathy and deep listening. At Diapraxis, we have introduced Empathy Circles in a variety of different contexts, from schools where teachers are seeking to build better relationships with one another, to accounting consultancies that support continuous improvement in the corporate world.
Who can benefit from Empathy Circles?
Anyone who wants to develop a culture of deep listening, whether at your workplace or in your community group, can benefit from this enjoyable practice. This includes leaders and managers who want to support interpersonal communication and defuse unproductive conflict.
The practice of communicative empathy is increasingly being recognized as a key element for regenerative future. Empathy Circles offer a deeply meaningful and enjoyable way to connect with others, while also developing a fundamental skill for conflict transformation. By creating a habit of helping others feel heard, we are co-creating a new culture of communication, one that allows us to better understand one another, especially when we have divergent perspectives.
Origins of Empathy Circles:
This simple yet powerful format has been pioneered by Edwin Rutsch, building on the work of Carl Rogers. It’s a key part of Edwin’s larger project of promoting a “Culture of Empathy“.
While there are nuances to empathic listening that can take a lifetime to master, it’s also great entry-level practice for beginners. Here’s the link to the main Empathy Circle website, which offers a lot of free trainings and resources.
Do let us know if you’d like some customized support for this process!
Empathy Circle “How to”: An updated version of Edwin’s original guide for participating in an Empathy Circle.
This Guide for Hosts was created during an online design sprint in March/April of 2017, with dedicated empathy practitioners and researchers from around the world.
La Ronda de la Empatía, en español… gracias al Dr. Salvador Moreno López.
Empathy Circles for Activists: this one-page intro to the benefits of Empathy Circles was written for a workshop hosted by the Four Freedoms Coalition.
Empathy as Imaginal Cells for a Regenerative and Co-creative future — this longer blog post describes why Empathy Circles can be such a powerful contribution to deep culture change.
If you experiment with any of the above resources and have some feedback to offer, we’d love to hear it!
Opening Minds and Hearts
In the fall of 2017, we at DiaPraxis began a collaboration with folks from Living the Change, to offer evening communications workshops to our local community. We now call these mini-workshops “OMAH”s for short.
In this format, we included Empathy Circle practice as a preliminary community-building step, before hosting a whole-group conversation with Dynamic Facilitation. It turns out that this combination works beautifully! We continue to offer this work, and here’s a link to a Google Doc where we’ve shared our learnings.
And still more resources:
For several years, Lidewij Niezink collaborated with Edwin Rutsch, the creator of Empathy Circles. They then wrote a book expanding on the many dimensions of empathy. For those interested in a more elaborate approach than the “bare-bones” version described above, this is beautifully-illustrated book on Empathy Circles.
Here is the reference: Niezink, L.W. & Rutsch, E. (2016). Empathy Circles: a Blended Empathy Practice. France: Lidewij Niezink.