"I’ve been able to deescalate possible confrontations,
and more importantly, deepen my
communication with loved ones
and friends. "
I have been participating in Empathic Listening Circles for a little more than a year as of this writing. I’m very enthusiastic about the practice and the benefits that it has brought me. I’m a retired Special Education teacher that taught and counseled students with extreme emotional challenges. Their behaviors put them at risk for removal from their families and possibly institutionalization. The task of my team was to give our students insight into their situations and provide pro social alternatives to their disruptive and dangerous behaviors. When a student was violent, we would sit down and ask ourselves, “What was the communicative intent of the behavior?” Once identified and addressed, we saw a vast decrease in the need to act out physically. A large part of our therapeutic intervention was to help our students feel heard.
This is the essence of the Empathic Listening Circles and it provides great benefits to everyone, not just to people in crisis. I’ve found that I’m more self aware of the effect that my communication styles have on others. I’ve been able to deescalate possible confrontations, and more importantly, deepen my communication with loved ones and friends. This is a benefit that only grows over time.
I also have joined the Empathy Tent team in going to demonstrations of both the Left and the Right, offering listening and dialogue to all persons who wish it. What I’ve found is that once you listen to a person without judgement, the labels tend to fall away and two human beings emerge. I sincerely believe that if we are to address the great challenges that we face successfully, we have to do it from within a culture of Empathy, where everyone feels heard. I encourage everyone to participate and spread the Empathic Listening Circle practice and start our societal healing. In the future, when your children and grandchildren ask you what you did in this time of crisis, you can say, “I did my best to listen and help others feel that they were a part of our human community.”