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Exercise: Empathy Practice

This is an exercise I use a lot in my workshops. It’s not only a great workshop exercise but also excellent as a regular practice for deepening any relationship. It takes 20 to 30 minutes and is set up to allow each person time to express themselves and be really heard. The beauty of the process is that a safe space is created for the speaker because the listener is not allowed to respond and must remain listening in silent empathy.

First time you do it you may find it hard to keep complete attention (when listening) or to find things to express (when speaking). Second time, you will probably find both easier. Third time, you’ll may start to experience the incredible transformative power of complete, non-judgemental attention with another human being.

Used as regular relationship practice, the process builds deeper and deeper layers of connection, trust and mutual understanding. If you choose to build it into your life as a regular practice with, for example, your intimate partner, then I would recommend at least weekly, though you could even make it a daily practice. My personal preference is to do this 2 or 3 times a week with my intimate partner. It can also be very effective as ‘one-off’ to help resolve a conflict with someone because it allows both sides to express freely.

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