Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Empathy 101 - President Obama and Clinton

Last weekend I facilitated a Nonviolent Communication training hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami and just yesterday I was at the UUA Midsouth District Healthy Congregation Meeting where I facilitated NVC during a 4 hour workshop. I've got empathy and honesty on the brain, and some very lovely and dedicated people in my heart.

Part of the way I conduct seminars is to role play with participants so they can keep their hearts open in order to empathize with others, and with themselves. The goal is to not get into "thinking" and "defending" your position, but to offer empathy to the other if you feel they need it. This takes practice to do, because we so often think that if the other person just understood our position, they would do what we want. Clarity is always a good thing, however, people who need empathy often aren't able to hear explanations and requests. So we practice empathy, empathy, empathy.

Just this week there was an editorial cartoon in the Gainesville Sun with President Clinton teaching empathy to President Obama. I imagined myself role playing with Obama in this scenario. I would coach him by saying he started off well by checking in with the feelings of Clinton. His next step would then to be to link feelings with universal needs instead of going into explanations.

For instance, he might have said, "I'm guessing that you are anxious and frustrated, because you really long for empathy and an authentic connection with me. Is this right?"

To which, in my role play I would say as President Clinton. "Yes, I'm frustrated, but it's because you talk so much about empathy without really doing it. We are losing our democratic majority. Can't you just connect to the people?"

To which Obama, in my dreams, would reply, "You long for mutual empowerment in the government, with me, so that we can bring about a country where all people, and all beings, flourish. I want that too. Would you be willing to bring in an NVC facilitator so that me and my staff can keep our hearts open so that the needs of all are on the table, without making enemy images of those who have different strategies?"

In my dream that night, I really did dream of Obama. He was unsure at first, and then broke out laughing and was joyful with me. I awoke wondering if somehow we had gotten empathy from me, and so was able to connect to this heart, and to all hearts.

May the healing power of empathy be his and yours this day.

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