I Stink at Empathy

Message from Leslie

Dear Friends,

I had an awakening on Friday; I was able to get in touch with one of my
self-judgments that is very painful to me.It is ‘I stink at empathy’. I
will tell you about that in a minute.

My awakening didn’t happen without a stimulus. The stimulus came in the form of the Bay Area NVC Newsletter. The newsletter highlighted a U-tube video of a television program Bay Area NVC produces called “Conflict Hotline”. I was curious and tuned in. In the course of watching a video of NVC trainer Miki Kashtan role-playing, she said, “Empathic connection is rare in our culture”. I’ve heard this before, but somehow this observation lodged in my heart. I thought, “empathic connection is not infrequent, it is not unusual or occasional, it is rare. ”

I began thinking about the people who regularly make my life wonderful.
I wanted to celebrate and to appreciate they are rare. I thought about
two people in particular because they ‘get the quality and process of
empathic connection’ but they have never studied Nonviolent
Communication. In one case I marveled at this person’s parenting, how
she contributes to committees, and even how this person contributes to
me in ten-second parking lot conversations. In the other case the person
who has enriched my life has ability to teach and support children and
also their parents. I also want to celebrate that even though most of us
don’t learn empathic presence in our culture we can learn how to
cultivate the empathy that is ours naturally. Not only can we learn, it
is so savory a treat, we are attracted to this nutrient again and again.

A little later on Friday I was mulling over this observation ’empathic
presence is rare’. It struck me, the reason empathy is so hard to master
is that I came to it after many, many years of not knowing it. The two
people I know who have not studied NVC are indeed lucky, so lucky to
have been nurtured with empathy thatthey can give it with ease. Long
pause to savor this along with a dissipation of what had been a
lingering jealousy for these two people. Then I had my moment of
awakening, I realized the need behind “you stink at empathy” was not
only competence, but also self-acceptance. I felt at peace simply having
arrived at this precious need of self-acceptance.

What I’ve learned in NVC is to embrace self-judgment and let it speak,
let the judgment live so that it can awaken us to our unmet
needs.Hearing our self-judgment is the first of the five steps of
self-empathy.It is the most freeing for me because it functions as
sunshine to see precious needs that give us life.What a relief that
self-judgment’s job is not to produce more self-judgment!

Miki’s observation evolved into self-empathy. I came to a place of
acceptance and gratitude for my continuing journey to become more and
more fluent in empathy, a journey that is not over and gratitude for all
who support me along the way.

If you are moved to hear about what Bay Area NVC is doing you can
google Bay Area NVC. For workshop information and resources please visit us at the Institute for Empowering Communication.



About Institute for Empowering Communication

Co-founder of the Institute for Empowering Communication
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