A friend of mine recently asked me about what we call having an “empathy buddy” entails. It seemed like relevant information to share here =).
Basically how having an empathy buddy works is something like this:
Someone agrees to start talking about what they would like to have empathy on. The other person listens. Sometimes the person starting doesn’t even know what they need empathy on and would just like to talk things out and see if they hit on something. Other times the person may request to pass or not have empathy at that time.
What gets talked about?
The topic of empathy does not need to be centered around just sad, angry, conflicted (…etc.) emotions- it can also be a chance to celebrate or share something you are feeling deep gratitude or joy (etc.) about.
Where does the empathy come in?
Once the person seems like they are done speaking or perhaps taking a break to receive empathy- the listener (or if you in a group the listeners) can reflect what they heard. This is commonly done through empathy guesses.
ex: “I am hearing that your wanting to be seen, that you really want to matter…”
and sometimes the receiver will chime in something to the effect of: “Yes! That’s it!…” or “Well…that’s not quite it, it’s more like….” and the listener listens and when the time is right reflects back more empathy guesses.
What about silent empathy?
Sometimes empathy is silent. If it doesn’t feel like the right moment to say something or if for whatever reason silent empathy feels right than this may happen as well. Silent empathy involves holding space for someone and giving them a sort of energetic projection of empathy…one way to think of this is if empathy guessing were massage silent empathy would be Reiki. Ultimately both are important and I would argue that with experienced “pro” empathy givers both are used and often at the same time.
Requesting silent empathy?
There is always space for requests. The speaker can request silent empathy. The speaker can request silent empathy before they start sharing or after they have shared. They can request silent empathy for their entire time without speaking at all (meaning both parties are silent with the listeners giving silent empathy until the person receiving empathy feels complete).
The speaker can also request strategies: (aka: …advice/ideas/guesses as to what kind of actions they could take in their lives that would be most beneficial, *it is good to note that NVC does not consider strategies to be empathy- none the less the speaker may request them). The speaker can request a range of things…
At some point when there is a feeling of closure the listener may ask: “Do you feel complete?” (or some variation of this) and the speaker may say “yes” and the two may switch rolls. Or if they do not feel fully done they may say “Yes, and I just wanted to express one last thing…”.
How often empathy buddies meet is up to the empathy buddies. After a relationship is formed and trust is there, it is not uncommon for one empathy buddy to call the other for some unscheduled empathy if something feels pressing, and visa verse. Having regularly scheduled meetings with your empathy buddy can be useful for a couple reasons. One of which being it is often hard for people to go out of their way to ask for empathy.
* I have attached some pictures I took while at NVCSC that might provide some useful bullet points =).
Angel, Nonviolent Communication Santa Cruz Intern