Health / Complementary Health

The Empathy target

By alex diggins, Friday Oct 5, 2018

Empathy is a respectful understanding of another person’s experience. It involves sensing their current feelings and underlying needs. But, what happens if your attempts to understand keep on missing? I decided to enlarge the ‘target’ to include listening in silence, summarising, sensing what’s important and recognising feelings and needs.

So, what do you actually do in each ring? Recently a friend showed me a letter they’d got for a £1,000 penalty notice.

Listening in silence: Empathy as presence. I gave my full attention to my friend, with the intention of connecting and letting myself be moved by their words.
Summarising  in one or two sentences the content: “What I heard is that you’ve received a penalty notice despite two attempts to file a return. Is that what you meant?” She said yes.

Sensing what’s important: Moving towards the heart of the matter. “Is it important to you that you tried your best?” More nods.

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Sensing feelings: I sensed what my friend might be feeling, “Are you feeling discouraged and a little scared?” A rueful smile.

Sensing needs: At the centre of the target, I sensed their need, “And is that because you’d like acknowledgment of your efforts and financial security?” A sigh of relief.

I’ll Meet You There: a practical guide to empathy, mindfulness and communication is out now. You can read the first chapter and buy it on:

Find out more about Nonviolent Communication training at

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