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Meeting: Wednesday, Sept 14,  3pm-5pm (PST Pacific Time)]

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What is your personal visceral felt experience of empathy?

Topic:  Practicing Relational Empathic Listening to Build IETA

In prparation read: How To Host an Empathy Circle

Participants (10 max ) To take part, add your name and email below.

  1. Edwin Rutsch -

  2. Christel Broederlow -

Registered but didn't attend

Topics Discussed

 Direction of IETA

a. Edwin: Preference for Relational Empathy with a visceral emphasis (feeling into) 

b. Christel: Importance of teaching self-empathy vs relational, how can one have relational empathy with the many if they first do not understand self-empathy? One must have an understanding of what they feel, the emotions within, identifying polarized emotions and being able to balance this without feeling held by it (the emotion). The empathic connection in what we sense in others often triggers a specific emotion linked to a specific memory/experience within that is more than often not understood, so we can relate to a degree what the person is expressing exists within, empathy is a 2 way passage.

c. My focus in raising empathy awareness was directed at people who call themselves Empaths or Highly Sensitive and have had strong empathy all of their lives, though many do not understand the depth of their emotions and feel overwhelmed by what they sense in others, they desperately want to ‘turn off their empathy’. They have this deep belief that their purpose in life is to help/serve others but give very little to themselves and lack self-worth and self-love. 

By teaching them to understand what empathy is and over what it is not helps them to flow through life by being of service to self and others without feeling weighted down by all the emotional and thought energies they pick up. This can apply to everyone, empath or not, as many people really do not harness what they feel but fear and suppress it. When we understand self-empathy only then can we truly be of service to others and have relational empathy, otherwise we are just doing without the empathic connection that goes beyond the doing. Action is only part of it, intent and the feelings that support this is the other.

Empathy Circle

a. Empathy Circle: Edwin ran through a session showing Christel how the empathy circle works with the following participants: 

1. Speaker
2. Active Listener and
 3. Silent Listener(s), however no other members were in attendance so Edwin and Christel took turns. 

 This was Christel’s first experience with the empathy circle for approximately an hour.

b. Christel’s observations:
 It starts with a Speaker who talks about anything that is of importance, or comes up for them, they speak, pause then allow the Active Listener to reflect back what that person has said, then turn it back to the Speaker to continue to speak, pause and to the Active Listener, this is ongoing throughout. No questions or prompting of a question is allowed by the Active Listener to the speaker, they must only reflect what they have heard until the Speaker feels they have been fully heard and states, “I feel heard” and then the roles are reversed and it’s the Active Listeners turn to become the Speaker, and the Speaker becomes the Active Listener.

    • As a natural born empath, initially I found it quite challenging to think about the process which was distracting from my natural flow (of empathy) that I’ve always been accustomed too, it took some getting used to how Edwin has designed specific steps that must be followed to a ‘T’, and that felt forced at first. 

    • To me empathy is about being able to sense and resonate with what a person is expressing by actively listening and confirming that back to them, it makes a person not feel alone in their experience and validated and heard. I had to halt everything I knew, let go and go with the flow of Edwin’s teachings. 

    • Some of the aspects of the Empathy Circle I understand, the listening and reflecting and I respect how this process allows the speaker to feel heard. 

    • Taking turns without interrupting the speaker (other than to reflect back what the speaker has said), gives each respective participant the opportunity to become the speaker (when their turn comes up) and ask questions when it is their turn, this provides a balance of communication for both parties, or all participants, everyone feels they have had a fair chance to be heard. 

    • Respect and understand how in an Empathy Circle involving a group of more than 2 people this can open the flow of effective listening/communication and all feel heard and potentially breaking down barriers because Active Listeners (who may struggle to be attentive in listening) have to put their listening skills to the test and actually truly hear what is being said by then having to reflect back to the speaker, this really is a skill and does take practice to perfect and opens the door to empathy, the two way flow. 

    • The importance of practicing the Empathy Circle so that it moves from having to think about the processes and into the natural state of empathy which is flowing effortlessly and a deeper connection occurs, participants begin to feel into one another, einfühlung, empathy. In the development stages, I would like to observe this with far greater intent and formulate questions by being a Silent Listener than have the opportunity to ask questions to all participants of an empathy circle (upon completion) to measure if empathy becomes a natural state, and if any refinement of the delivery is required. I am certain that Edwin has already conducted much research in regards to his teachings and would like to discuss further. 

    • The potential is great in developing an empathy movement that has noticeable results and I support this fully, the benefits of enhancing empathy awareness are many.


Certified Training:

a. By running through the Empathy Circle together we discussed the importance of IETA having a solid foundation on which to be built upon and the importance of developing and delivering the Empathy Circle and we both agree that potentially combining this with Dr. Kathy McGuire’s Intuitive Focusing course (as has been suggested by Dr. Kathy McGuire) being beneficial, as both can certainly give strength to each other and benefit all participants by being able to take what they have spoken about and then enhance it with intuitive focusing to allow them to move forward with the tools in how to do so. Not only speaking and feeling heard, but having the tools that address key areas and the action required to move forward Being proactive.

b. The Empathy Circle being the core foundation of IETA and developing the program fully and delivering this actively. It is proposed as being an International Empathy Trainers Association, providing empathy training becomes the platform for the association.

c. Potentially putting on hold forming IETA (making formal, however we can be informally created?) at this stage so that we have something clear, concise and that has been tried and tested with proven results that make a difference and supports the association (when it is formed).

d. Suggest that all members (past, present) experience an Empathy Circle to understand the process and provide feedback, both negative and positive, negative allows us to continually develop and strengthen its delivery and outcomes, positive encourages others to see the benefits and desire to learn and apply the Empathy Circle into their practice/profession and/or personal lives.

e. Other practitioners can potentially add to the program and enhance it overtime.

f. Provide Empathy Circle training to everyone free or of charge (neither has been determined yet) and certified (informal i.e. not accredited, but nonetheless recognised as having completed the course)

Empathy Circle Course Structure: 

a. Empathy Circle 10 Week Course

b. Training combined Group Training/own time (study at home)

c. All support material provided

d. Start with introduction to Empathy Circle Video potentially followed by live participation with Edwin and other IETA Empathy Facilitators who can schedule time to participate

e. IETA Empathy Facilitators must have sat in and actively participated in 10 Empathy Circle sessions to be comfortable and familiar with the process, so that students feel they are surrounded by others with experience and appreciation of EC

f. Trainees/Students must provide videos of Empathic Circle for assessment conducted between trainee and participant(s)

g. Trainees to complete a written test (potentially online) of understanding of the processes of the Empathy Circle

h. Trainees must complete 2 (number to be discussed and confirmed) live Empathy Circle sessions with minimum 2 IETA Empathy Facilitators participant (one can be Silent Listener/Observer to make assessments based on pre-formulated sheet)

i. Hardcopy and/or downloadable Certification of Attendance provided upon completion

j. Member of IETA Empathy Facilitators

k. Ongoing support network, bi-monthly meetings and email newsletter

Benefits to Focusing on Developing Empathy Circle prior to Forming IETA: 

a. Giving people a solid reason why they want to become a part of IETA, we offer a tangible training service and support network.

b. Foundation can potentially gain funding by our proven results to take it out further afield, i.e. education, governance, associations, businesses, communities etc.

c. Funding for ongoing research, Empathy Meter/MRI

d. Continually network and build interest in the formation of IETA

Identify the Target Market and Benefits: 

a. In order to promote the Empathy Circle Training and have people actively take it up, we must be able to attract the people who can benefit from it, who are they? Practitioners from varying fields (they are many, identify)

b. What are the benefits: who are the people that can benefit from participating in an Empathy Circle?

c. Conduct 1 on 1 or small group Empathy Circles with members and video these (with permission granted), edit and make the videos available to the general public via You Tube so that more people can see the benefits, adopt and apply and benefit firsthand with improved relationships, communication and listening skills, enhancing empathy

d. Identify what are the needs of the people? What issues are consistently being experienced by i.e. couples, parents, families, business owners, colleagues, board members, team leaders, employees, customer services etc. that allows us to put together real first hand experiences of willing participants that we can provide videos of.

Video You Tube:

a. Videos are brief to ensure we maintain attention of the viewer i.e. 5 mins, we can provide longer if the need/desire arises i.e. short version or extended version

Video Empathy Circle Categories:

1. Family Empathy;
Couples, parents with teenagers, parents with children, siblings, adults parents and their parents, extended family/in-laws.

2. Workplace Empathy;
Owner/CEO to board members/management/team leaders, team leaders to employee, employer to employee, employee to customer

3. Professional (specific) Empathy;
Education/Principal to teachers, teacher to students, peer to peer, Doctor to Doctor/Intern, Doctor to patient, nurse to patient, social worker to client

4. Other

Resources and Support Network:

a. Develop written training material to support trainees of the Empathy Circle Training (downloadable as PDF or eBook)

b. Provide other resources to support Trainees

c. Provide ongoing group support to all trainees who want to add the Empathy Circle into their practice/field

d. Provide networking of other practitioners with likemind/interest and opportunities to expand learning

Full Circle:

a. By developing the Empathy Circle training as the priority to the formation of IETA (formally to come) it brings 9 years of dedicated work for Edwin back to full circle, it’s how he started, and over time the Empathy Circle delivery has been somewhat side stepped, this discussion brings much clarity and renewed enthusiasm to Edwin of where he is/IETA is and where he/IETA can potentially move towards.

Empathic regards,
Christel Broederlow
Facebook: The Universal Empath 101

Edwin Report from Meeting

At the IETA meeting there was only Cristel and I attending.  Our meeting platform Google Hangouts on Air is moving from ‘Google+’ to a new setup on ‘Youtube Live Streaming’ so there is a learning curve to figure out how to use it.  We were unfortunately not able to record the meeting. That was to bad since we had a really good discussion and come up with a clear new direction.

The conclusion of the meeting was that we want to focus on using and developing the Empathic Listening and Circle process as a foundational empathy building practice. This is along the lines of what Kathy has been talking about.  We want to create a core and committed team of 4 to 6 people that will meet, use and develop empathic listening as a practice