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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0003 | May 29, 2001



Relating Skill

Be Empathetic Not Sympathetic
Put yourself in the other's shoes, but don't walk their path for them.



The Point?

A key to relating effectively with another is to be able to feel what you'd be feeling if you were in their circumstances. When you can do this, people feel understood, cared for, and willing to trust and share at a deeper level. This will be important if you facilitate groups working through emotional issues or any issues that become emotional. It will also be important not to rescue those that choose to not be responsible for their own feelings and actions.




So what's the difference between sympathy and empathy?

Sympathy, while highly valued in our culture, can actually be very disempowering. The sympathetic perspective tends to place you above the other, placing you in a position that might sound something like, "Oh you poor thing, this is just terrible what's happening to you." 

From an empathetic perspective, you understand what the other is feeling but don't necessarily "go there" with them. Instead, you view them as capable of working through the issue at hand. 

If you were being empathetic in the same situation, you might say something like, "I sense that you're hurting right now. Is there any support you'd like to ask for right now?" 

This stance is one of understanding and one that places the responsibility for getting the necessary help in the hands of the person who needs it. 

Don't rescue! Many people play the victim role so that others can play the rescuer role. Give people the opportunity to find the strength they need.




Practice using empathy the next time you're in a situation where someone is suffering emotionally. Be very present with them in an effort to understand what you might be feeling in a similar situation. Practice not getting caught in having the feeling yourself, but rather empower them to get the help they need to move forward. I'm interested in hearing about your experience. Please email me your thoughts, stories, and experiences on this issue.



book cover

Skill-Related Resource
The Power of Empathy : A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding and Lasting Love. by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D., Katherine Ketcham
Empathy, an innate human capacity that gives us the ability to understand the unique experiences of another person, is the most overlooked component of relationships. By allowing us to connect with one another on a meaningful and fulfilling level, it "can help and heal us all. This excellent book shows you how" Using a practical and inspiring plan for making empathy a vital part of your everyday life, discover: 

. Why empathy is crucial to finding love
. How to be an empathic listener
. How empathy can improve sex and create lasting intimacy
. How empathy differs from sympathy
. 10 steps to avoiding the pitfalls of negative empathy
. How empathy can help rebuild a relationship and restore confidence, trust, and faith

Prescriptive and provocative, The Power of Empathy shows us how we can transform our lives-and the lives of those we love.


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Interactive Forum
Facilitation Survey Model

Thank you to all of you who responded to the following questions that appeared in our last issue:
1. What is your biggest challenge as a facilitator?
2. What is your biggest challenge or concern as an active member of a working group, committee, organization, etc.?
3. What opportunities do you see for the groups you are a part of that aren't being realized?
4. What do you think are the biggest barriers in your group to achieving the results that you know are possible?

Responses to these questions are included in the forum. Please check out these responses and feel free to post yours there as well.



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About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to stretch beyond their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 



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