In the fields of professional spiritual care, and within our communities and relationships, “sympathy,” “empathy,” and “compassion,” are said to be valued, but have often been poorly or insufficiently defined. This situation contributes to a lack of clarity about how to practice and embody these learnable skills, as well as to common struggles referred to as exhaustion “compassion fatigue,” “empathetic distress,” and even violations of boundaries and ethical standards. How do we deeply listen to others, so they feel seen and heard and healing connection is created, without being overcome ourselves? Empathy is foundational to our aspirations to cultivate healthy and supportive relationships for oneself and others. Students of this class will gain theoretical and applied understanding of the 12 essential aspects of empathy in Mindful Compassionate Dialogue (and Nonviolent Communication or NVC). Students will learn to stay grounded while deescalating difficult conversations, recognize and set healthy boundaries, create healthy differentiation and emotional security, recognize and work with our own obstacles to empathy and self-empathy, and to build a functional vocabulary of feelings and needs. Students will enter a safe environment for practice and learning and should expect to share experiences from their lives. For each class there will be an introduction to concepts and skills, practice time in structured exercises in pairs or small groups, and then whole group questions and discussion time.
Faculty: LaShelle Lowe-Chard