Empathy Exercises


The intention here is to meet our needs for Connection, Empathy and Being Heard.

1. Speaker shares on an experience that is alive in him in that moment or can be easily remembered.
2. Either the speaker or the listener stops the dialogue when either wants reflection.
3. Listener reflects back or mirrors back what she heard. Word for word or in summary. Start the reflection with phrases like “I heard you say…” or “I think you said…”
4. Speaker decides whether he feels heard or not. This is not a thought but more a feeling. If the speaker does not feel heard, because he needs to add more or because the listener missed something important to him, he shares some more. Once again, either person can stop the sharing so the listener can reflect back.
5. Once the speaker feels heard, trade places so  the speaker becomes the listener and the listener becomes the speaker.

Tips for mirroring:
a. After the listener reflects what she heard, ask the speaker,  “Did I get everything?” or “Did I miss anything?” or “Is there anything you would like to add?”
b. Both people have the responsibility and ability to end the sharing and ask for reflection. Sometimes this alone can be good practice.
c. Sharing can be on any topic, including what the prior person spoke about, but keep it short and about your experience.
d. This is not about giving advice, judging or changing anything. It is about presence, connection and observation.


In this exercise, we build on the first 5 steps of mirroring. The intention is to empathize with what the speaker is feeling and needing.

6. After the speaker says she feels heard, the listener asks if he can guess her feelings and needs. Guess feelings first. Choose only one or two and the check in with the speaker. Do they resonate?
7. After the listener makes one or two guesses, the speaker can offer what needs come alive as a result of the process. It then becomes a collaborative effort with both people offering guesses.
8. Once the speaker feels the empathy of connecting with her feelings and/or needs, pause, let it sink in. Then switch places.

Tips for giving empathy:
a. Keep it focused on the present. What is the person feeling and needing right now?
b. Keep in mind that only the speaker truly knows what is going on with them. The listener can only guess. Use open questions like “Are you feeling ________________?” “Are you needing _______________?”
c. Try to connect the feelings and needs to what the speaker said happened. “I am guessing you are feeling _____________ because your need for _______________ was not met when ______________happened.
d. Try to focus on what the person needs, not what they don’t need. Keep it positive.

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